How to Start a Local Chamber of Commerce
By: Leon Castles
on Tuesday, December 08, 2009
A chamber of commerce can be adequately described as a voluntary partnership consisting of business organizations and professionals who work together in an effort to build a healthy economy, while improving the quality of life within a community. However, in order for a chamber to succeed in accomplishing these goals, it must be able to take on many different roles, such as the following:
- Economic developer/planner
- Government relations consultant
- Business spokesperson
- Tourist information center
- Human resources advisor
- Public relations liaison
Members & Leaders
Chamber of Commerce members usually include businesses, organizations and individuals that share a common concern in regard to the socioeconomic status of a community. United with one voice, these groups join forces for the purpose of getting things accomplished. You should also know that chamber members can be very diverse, consisting of entities from small stores and mom-and-pop diners, to established business corporations and local athletic teams. This is because there are no limits or restrictions placed on the number or kinds of members that can make up a camber of commerce.
Although a chamber of commerce is run by its members, they elect a board of directors whose job is to determine given policies and procedures and set goals for the organization to meet. A president is usually on hand to preside over all board meetings. However, day-to-day operations are typically handled by a professional supervisor or manager who is generally a paid employee. Smaller communities may have managers that either volunteer their services or work as part-time employees.
Starting and Setting up a Chamber of Commerce
When it comes to starting a chamber of commerce, experienced professionals can help with the process of organizing a chamber. Most new chamber volunteers either choose to organize themselves, or hire an attorney to incorporate. In terms of an economical standpoint, using volunteers is more cost-effective. However, enlisting the help of a professional most likely enhances the chance of success due to increased efficiency and productivity.
For instance, some of the steps that go along with setting up a nonprofit organization, such as a chamber of commerce, include drafting bylaws and creating a membership brochure, all of which could take up to several months for a committee to get through due to conflicting opinions over logos or budgets. A professional on the other hand, could have these tasks taken care of in as little as four weeks. Remember, a strong and well-organized startup is very crucial to the success of a new chamber.
Requirements for a Chamber of Commerce
Get ready to take some notes if you’re interested in setting up a chamber of commerce. The following requirements are very important to consider:
- Mission statement (a description of what the organization is and who it serves)
- Identify leaders within the chamber that can take charge and get the ball rolling
- Outline of the chamber’s formal organizational structure
- Consider finances (including how much capital is needed, anticipated income, member dues, conference registration fees, advertising, sponsorships etc.)
- Determine where your chamber’s physical operations will be run
- Membership (recruiting prospective members to join the organization)
- Conducting meetings for the purpose of sharing information and accomplishing goals
- PR (generating necessary press to your chamber through writing news releases, creating a logo, having online presence etc.)
- Have the right staff on hand (managers, volunteers, legal representation, lobbyists etc.)
- Strategize by having a specific action plan in place to help your chamber identify factors that will affect it, such as opposition, governmental regulation and probable crises