Enhance the Board Member Cycle

I attended a recent webinar by two IOM faculty members, Cathi Hight, Hight Performance Group and Michael Gellman, Sustainability Education 4 Nonprofits, on the title of this blog.

They focused on three cycles; enhancing the first year of board service, finding pathways for continuing board service and past presidents & chairmen can be a powerful resource (or missed opportunity).
The following are my notes on a great discussion around a board members term of service or life cycle.
Enhancing The First Year of Board Service

  • Staff needs to take the lead and set the expectations for board service.  Do you have a job description for new board members?
  • Help board members find and align their passion and capacity to serve the needs of the organization.
  • The first year sets the stage for the board members remaining time of their service.
  • Ways to get your new board members engaged: share important documents with them, introduce them to key senior staff and connect them with a former board member.  Give them the tools to be effective.
  • And finally, review their first year’s participation and set goals for them going forward.
Finding Pathways for Continuing Board Service

  • Four ways to refocus their engagement – lead as an experienced board member, choose to serve as an officer, serve an additional term or ending their service on a high note.
  • Lead – raise the bar on efforts, take an expanded leadership role, and thoughtful engagement.
  • Serve as an officer – or serve as a committee chair.  This is a great way for you to see growth in a board member and where they might end up down the road.  It’s important to determine if that board member has the capacity to serve and whether it’s a good fit or not. They had a slide that had the four attributes that Mike feels is needed to be an officer; Capacity, Fortitude, Skills and Passion.
  • Serve an additional term – as a general rule, our board members serve two-year terms, renewable for up to three times.  If it’s not a good fit, maybe it’s time to say thank you for your service to that board member that just hasn’t engaged with the program of work of the chamber.
  • Ending on a high note – be thoughtful and purposeful when working with your board members who are ending their volunteering.  This will ensure a positive experience which in turn will help you with continuity moving forward and still have the support of that retiring board member.
Past Presidents & Chairmen Can Be a Powerful Resource (or missed opportunity)

  • They have the knowledge of your organization from their experience and it’s important to keep them involved in some capacity without them overpowering the work of the current board.
  • I’ve written about this in the past, do you have a quarterly meeting with your past chairmen? They no longer have a dog in the fight and can give good counsel on programs that you might want to sunset – (think sacred cows).
  • Ambassador role – fundraising, awards committee, ribbon cuttings, etc.  What a great way to have a past chairman serve in these roles and it shows the community the importance you’ve put on this program of work.  That’s a win/win for both them and you!

For more information on Cathi Hight go HERE or for Mike Gellman go HERE.

The Power of Tiers – Maximizing Growth and Member Engagement

The following post is based on a recent webinar moderated by Cathi Hight, Hight Performance Group, on tiered dues models. 

Are you thinking about moving to tiers?


Many chambers have made the switch from FTE’s to tiered dues to determine what members pay each year.  Moving to tiers sets a clear choice for your members, not a case of back and forth under an old FTE model.


It was stated that about 60% of chambers are on the tiered dues model.  Tiers allows you set different benefits at each level.  Think ribbon cuttings being attached to a higher tier than you entry level tier.  It also allows your members to pay one dues point for the year instead of you going back for advertising or sponsorship money, etc.


A common theme from all 5 executives is that there was a set of core benefits that every member got at the entry level dues point/tier.  Then within each tier they had a list of additional benefits they would receive, in addition to the core benefit.


They mentioned it is important to communicate with your members of the new tiered dues model in advance and that it can take up to 18 months or two years to make the full transition.  All had very positive outcomes in making the move to a tiered dues system.


It was also mentioned to involve your members in a task force, prior to transitioning to a tiered dues system, to decide what should be in each level at your chamber.  And have a board member as a champion in supporting this transition.


The following are my bulleted notes from the 5 executives telling their story/journey/model.


Missy Evans – Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce (AL)


  • No dues increase in 20 years
  • They needed to answer the question “So what do I get with my membership?”
  • Tiers allowed us to give our members the choice to join at the level that is right for them.
  • They created three tiers focused on prosperity, everyone got the core benefits – and then could choose between three tiers; Business Growth (different add on bundles) and Community Growth (different add on bundles), Trackman Investor (full access).
  • Moving to tiers allowed us to partner with members in their desired outcomes.


Dawn Mushill – Troy/Maryville/St. Jacob/Marine Chamber of Commerce (IL)


  • We used to offer 70 membership benefits
  • Our members had different needs
  • We created a menu of services of the different benefits that the member could sign-up for, the entry level or minimum dues amount was $300.
  • They then created 7 additional tiered dues levels ranging from $600 - $15K


Rich Millard – Royal Gorge Chamber Alliance (CO)


  • We did a rebrand and went to tiered dues at the same time
  • We moved to tiers to give our members increased value and allowing them to choose which tier works best for them
  • They created 6 tiers under the tag line of investor benefits – designed by our members for members (they asked what their members wanted before they officially moved to tiers – as mentioned above)


Margie Donnell – Lancaster/Fairfield Chamber of Commerce (OH)


  • We moved to tiers because the old model was too confusing for members and staff to negotiate (i.e., we had company types, FTE’s, banks paid based on deposits, etc.)
  • They created a think tank to get feedback on what members wanted.  They used that data to create their tiers
  • They created 6 tiers with a check list of what members would receive at each tier
  • The tiers made it very easy for them to sell memberships


Barbara Riviera-Holmes – Albany Area Chamber of Commerce


  • They went from a membership model based on business sectors to tiers
  • This allowed their businesses to choose what tier worked best for them on where they are in their company growth
  • Again, this chamber created the tiers designed by members for members tagline
  • Tiered dues allows members to customize their partnership with the chamber – they have the power to choose what works best for them
  • They have 6 tiers with different benefits for each level


From my perspective, you need to decide what model works best for you and the number of tiers you want to create.  What is very important is that you have a major hook at each tier so you/they can justify going to the next level.


Another interesting fact when moving to tiers, a number of your members will want to be at the top tier.  Use that to your advantage.  Are you recognizing your members at that top level of membership?  People like to be recognized and this is a passive way to market that top tier to members.


For more information on Cathi Hight, Hight Performance Group, on her work with tiered dues models go HERE.