Strategic Sponsorships: Aligning Members With Your Chamber’s Mission

A recent webinar presented by Jessica Simpson, VP of Membership, Greater Pensacola Chamber, addressed the issue of Strategic Sponsorships.  The following is my take away.

It's a mindset from moving away from individual transactions to a partnership that could last multiple years.


She started out by talking about Total Resource Campaigns and at the end of the day, they're all about a sponsorship drive.


Strategic sponsorships is all about the opportunity to align what you do with possible sponsors on issues they care about.


It allows a member/sponsor to align their sponsorship awareness with a program of work at the chamber (workforce, education, technology). If you do it right, you will see your engagement grow with those sponsors.


It’s also important to treat these relationships as partnerships which will allow you to create longterm commitments and not just create one-off transactions.  You don’t want to be in the transaction business, you want to be in the partnership business.


Start having conversations with possible sponsors to find out what they care about and what they will support.  If it’s in your program of work as a chamber, you’ve got a match (i.e. quarterly breakfast on a specific subject; Economic, Legal, Health Care, Education, etc.).

Suggestions on who might support those special quarterly breakfasts per issue:


  • Bank – economic updates
  • Hospital – health care trends
  • College – education, workforce
  • Law Firm – legal trends, policy and regulatory issues


I would suggest a three-year commitment to be a named partner for any program you create.  It’s also important that you communicate to your members the support of the named sponsor throughout all your communication channels.


Think holistically when setting up a possible partnership program, create a plan and ask your members to sponsor it!

Dropped Member Campaigns

This blog post is based on my note taking of a recent webinar I attended featuring Kathy Blank, CCE, VP McKinney Chamber in Texas, on dropped member campaigns.


If you’re in the membership business, you know this group of leads are your hottest prospects.


She talked about four steps to win back members: Analyze, Target, Make a Plan and Execute.  The following were her comments, in each category, to help conduct an effective dropped member campaign.




  • Survey your drops to gain insight on why they did not renew;
  • Was their membership essential spending or discretionary spending?;
  • Did you lose members due to closures vs money being tight?; and finally
  • Clean your lists, don’t spend good money after bad.




  • Create a comeback program on your website.
  • Create some virtual events that target lapsed members.


Make a Plan


  • Did you extend memberships, specifically in the hospitality industry knowing that they were hurt the most?
  • Did you show value over the past year during Covid and how you helped your members navigate some of the government benefits to the small business community, including but not limited to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) program?




  • Continue to build relationships with your lapsed members and prospect members.  Stay focused.
  • They will quit the Chamber, but they won’t quit the person (staff) and that’s why relationship building is so important.


Remember, it’s important to use all the communication vehicles available to you to connect with your lapsed members.


  • Calls
  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Member-get-a-member campaign
  • Social Media


Once you’ve done your homework, now it’s time to “just invite them back!”


And remember to engage those rejoins immediately with a plan as if they were first time members.  Don’t overwhelm them but do have a steady drumbeat of communications on how they can take advantage of their membership now that they have rejoined.


One thing I like to talk about that was not part of this webinar is the idea of revenue versus the number of members your chamber has on the books.  Have you heard the saying, “don’t trip over quarters to pick-up pennies?”  Over my 20 years of doing membership, those penny members are the neediest and will leave you at the drop of a hat.


And my final comment, don’t get caught up in the number of members but focus on the quality of the member.


For a great Association Now article titled, Win Back Your Lapsed Members, that details the four steps above, can be found HERE.

Keeping Your Board Focused on Their Responsibilities (and not yours)

The following are my notes from a recent Institute for Organization Management webinar led by faculty member Claire Louder, IOM, CAE, MP, Louder Nonprofit Strategies, LLC.

She started out with the question.  “Are your board members wanting to get more involved in your chamber?”
If your board members lack direction, that can result in disfunction, including but not limited to, micromanagement, rogue committees or special projects just to name a few.
Six Keys to Success to keep you on track.
  1. Strong Bylaws – gives you structure and lays out the roles and responsibilities of your board on what they should and should not do.
  2. Board Orientation – setting expectations upfront will pay dividends down the road.  And I’m a fan of repeating these expectations on a regular basis.  The things to focus on would be roles and responsibilities, and what I call the big three fiduciary responsibility – Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty and Duty of Obedience.  Go HERE for a previous blog post on that subject.
  3. Strategic Plan with Big Goals – keep your board out of the weeds and keep them focused on the big issues facing your business members and communities.  Your plan should drive your board meetings and keep them focused.  You could focus on one or two of your goals per meeting.  She did not suggest reviewing all each meeting.
  4. New Chairman Orientation – I would expand this to having a yearly orientation with your current chairman and your incoming chairman at the same time.  This will give you continuity through the transition.  Board sets policy, staff implements that policy.
  5. Open Board Chairman Communications – regular communications is a key component to a successful relationship with your chairman.  I call this the “no surprises” rule.  Your chairman should never hear about something related to the chamber by someone other than you first!  Commitment to a communication plan and stick with it.  It could be once a week, every other week or once a month.  Find out if this is a phone call, email, or in-person meeting.  I’ve suggested in the past about creating memorandum of understanding – you can go HERE for that blog post.
  6. Succession Planning – every chamber should have a succession plan in place.  A communication strategy on notifying the proper stakeholders is key (i.e., staff, members, and the community at large).  How are you identifying your next volunteer leader?  I suggest use your committees as a training ground for future leadership on the board.
Speaking of succession planning, I suggest you have one for the CEO too.  CEO’s leave for a number of reasons but the big three are retirement, left for a new job or were relieved of their duty.  Your chamber does not want to be caught off guard no matter which of the above three caused the change and be seen as floundering until a new person is hired.  Go HERE for more detail on creating a succession plan for the CEO.
She ended with the comment “keep your board focused on the big issues,” they will thank you!

For more resources on board management go HERE and HERE.

The Making of an Esteemed Board Chair

This was a fascinating session from the recent virtual ASAE Annual Meeting.

The discussion was led by Tom Dolan and Mark Engle, both longtime association executive CEO’s.
They started off by identifying the characteristics of three problem chairs:
  1. Power Grab Board Chair – be careful, they will go rogue on you.
  2. Entitled Board Chair – they spend the chamber’s money, at the best restaurant, expensive venue for the board retreat, and they think they can push things through when the board has already voted it down in the past.
  3. Speaker for Life Board Chair – they stay around and continue to insert themselves in board activities.
After that discussion, they delved into the ways you can have an esteemed board chair.
  • Minimize the level of disfunction.
  • Keep the board at the theory level.
  • Build a partnership between you and Board Chair.
They talked about the role of the CEO and how they need to bring the board chair along on major issues the organization may be facing.  If there is bad news, you need to let the board chair hear it from you and not from someone else.  I call this the “no surprises” please rule of management, at any level.
They went on to give tips on how to build a relationship with your new board chair:
  • Find out how your board chair wants to communicate with you?
  • Go over the issues and policies facing the chamber on a regular basis.
  • Remind them of the role between the chairman and staff.  Let them know that 90 percent of staff time is to keep the doors open.
  • Have dinner the night before the board meeting to go over any last-minute items.
  • And don’t forget to meet with the new chair-elect as soon as possible.  Begin by establishing open communications with your chair-elect.  They’ll be your chairman in a year!
At the end of the day, build a relationship with your board chair and make sure there are no surprises by communicating with them on a regular basis.  And remember, communicate with them the way they want to have those communications.
A final nugget of information they said, "any board member can become chair."  Be mindful of that and keep track of who would make a good future board chair and who would not!

Great Boards: Finding Them, Engaging Them, Keeping Them

The following post are my notes from a great session led by Claire Louder, Louder NonProfit Strategies, LLC, on the title of this blog.

At this year’s ACCE Summit, Claire started out her session by identifying key attributes of a good board member.  The ones that jumped out for me, include but are not limited to, strategic thinker, visionary, integrity, expertise and financial resources.

She went on to talk about where you can find good board members.  Current volunteers, donors/sponsors, other organizations, and referrals from board members. I’m a fan of identifying skill-sets the board may need; legal, finance, marketing, policy, etc.

Once you have them, support them by holding an orientation – where you can review your program of work, give them support materials and possibly find them a mentor.  Help them build relationships with current board members.

Claire went on to talk about the importance of working effectively with your board chair.  You could have an orientation just for them which is very different than what a full board orientation might look like.  They need to understand their role.  Possibly your past chair could lead this discussion with you as a participant or you could attend a program around the subject. ASAE has conducted their CEO Symposium for over 20 years now.  For more information on that series go HERE.

It is critical that the chair understands his or her role.  They need to understand the difference between the board chair and the CEO of the organization.  Do you have a Memorandum of Understanding on the role of the chair and CEO?  Go HERE for a blog post on that subject and sample document.

And by the way, that document is a great way to set an expectation on how you will communicate, set board agenda’s, etc., in the year they are chair.  Find out what works best for them and stick to the timetable they’ve set.  Respect their time!

She went on to talk about ways to engage them.  Make sure your board meetings are meaningful and timely, stick to the agenda, and use a consent agenda for general reporting items.  Use the other time to discuss any issues the chamber may be facing in the future.

For an example of a board agenda go HERE.  She suggested your strategic plan and business plan should be in your board materials at every meeting.

And her final comments were about recognizing your volunteers.  Thank them and give them credit.  It’s about them, not you!

For resources from Claire’s website go HERE.

I’m Not Interested – Overcoming Prospecting Roadblocks

Here are my notes from a great session I listened to recently led by Doug Holman with 
Holman Brothers.
He started out by saying if you want to get more members, you need to make calls.  I would add be focused, consistent and intentional.
Who & Why?

Identify the businesses to go after to join as members.  They will join if they see an advantage to joining your chamber if you can solve their problems  He talked about how small businesses need growth, visibility and credibility.  Large businesses need access, influence and resources.  As the chamber, you have the answers to all three for each category.
Tailor your pitch to each prospect (i.e., small business pitch vs big business pitch).  Do your research prior to the call.  Find a hook for each prospective business.
Prospect roadblocks are not rejections.  He mentioned the three most common roadblocks:
  1. Can you send me some information - find out what they may want out of a membership.  Ask them what keeps them up at night in their business.  This will help in your follow-up email confirmation.  And don’t forget to set-up that follow-up call to discuss the information you’ve sent.  Make the communication about them.
  2. Is this about joining the Chamber - don’t take these as negative comments.  Find out what they really mean.  Tell the truth that yes ultimately we’d like you to join but first let’s find out if we have a fit!
  3. I’m not interested - is this a reaction or a conclusion?  You might respond by saying “no problem, the chamber is not a fit for everybody.”  And then ask “do you mind if I ask one question before I let you go?”  "What is it about the chamber that has you convinced that you would never join?"
Remember, not every business is a fit for being a member.  But your job is to find the ones that will benefit from joining your chamber.
Stay focused, consistent and intentional in your membership recruitment campaigns, and then get on the phone!