Congratulations! You’ve just been chosen for a valuable and hugely prestigious volunteer position–chamber board member. Your nomination/selection for this role is something you should be very proud of. Chamber of commerce board responsibilities come with expectations… and perks!
Being a chamber board member is also a position of distinction and requires a lot of hard work. While each chamber is different, keep reading to prepare yourself for some of the common expectations.
Chamber of Commerce Board Responsibilities: The Position Comes With Expectations (and Fun)
Some people have limited expectations about board positions because of the reputation that corporate board positions hold. Corporate board positions can seem more like perks than work. Being a sitting member of a chamber of commerce board will entail a lot of responsibility. Exactly what those responsibilities are will depend on your chamber but they likely involve:
Recruiting New Members
Chamber staff recruits as well but recruitment efforts of chamber board members are very effective because even though you volunteer your time for the chamber, you are not paid by them. Thus, your opinion is not based on who signs your paycheck. Plus, chamber board members are often successful, well-respected business people. Your reasons for joining the chamber are very relevant and other businesses will want to hear those reasons.
Your “pitch” should be personal. That makes recruiting much easier. People do business (and join membership organizations) based on knowing, liking and trusting the people involved in the organization and the recruiting process.
How to Recruit New Members
First, shift your focus from a hard “recruit” to being helpful. Share with your tribe why you joined the chamber.
- What has membership helped you with?
- How has membership made a difference in your business?
- What do you like best about being a chamber member?
Share stories with businesses you come in contact with.
Next, know the basics of chamber membership. Some business people you run into may not know what the chamber does. Be prepared to answer what a chamber of commerce is and what the business can expect from membership in the chamber. Again, tell stories of how it has helped you.
Know the basics of how dues work. Do your businesses pay based on the number of employees or the benefits they’re most interested in? Find out from your chamber if they want you to talk about what dues cost or if they want you to simply refer those types of questions to the membership chair. Either way, knowing the basics is helpful in continuing the conversation.
If a business person asks you a question you cannot answer, it’s okay to say “I don’t know” but follow it up with “I’ll find out for you.” Then follow up or refer them to the appropriate channel/person.
As a chamber board member, there are going to be several meetings you will need to attend. As a matter of fact, there are likely attendance requirements to serve as a board member. You probably expected that as a chamber of commerce board member, this is one of the prime responsibilities. You’re right. Most chambers consider it grounds for removal from the board if you do not make it to the required number of meetings.
Some chambers have quarterly meetings, while some find monthly works best. Some chambers have 10 meetings every year. It’s likely you will also need to attend at least one board retreat or strategy meeting a year. Some of these are located offsite and may require an overnight stay.
Make sure you understand the attendance requirements before accepting the role. It’s also important that you understand how long your term is for and whether you are eligible to continue to run or be considered after your term is over. Some chambers have term limits. For instance, chamber board members may only be allowed to serve two terms consecutively but could run (or be considered for) another term after that.
Chamber board members also participate in critical votes for the chamber. They could vote on by-laws, budgets, new member requests or any other issues that come before it.
How you vote will depend on your chamber’s by-laws. Some may be electronic, others may require in-person votes with a quorum.
Hiring and By-Laws
Often the chamber board searches, interviews for, and selects the chamber executive director or president/CEO. This search may require additional time but (hopefully) it’s not something you’ll need to be a part of often.
While you may not be hiring during your time on the board, you will be evaluating the effectiveness of the ED/CEO through an annual review.
Another activity that is not a major part of the role but may come up is the rewriting of chamber by-laws. It is likely dictated exactly how the change process should work in the by-laws. By-laws should be reviewed periodically and amended as needed.
Dues structures are also a component that should be revisited periodically. You may decide as a board that it’s time to raise dues or that certain things should be changed about dues such as how they are calculated.
Representing the Chamber at All Times
One of the things that may be difficult to get used to is understanding that as a board member you represent the chamber at all times. This is one of the other most significant chamber of commerce board responsibilities and also applies to social media. No, adding “this is just my opinion” on your post does not cover the chamber from any negative PR. For instance, if you have a terrible experience with a member business, and post a scathingly negative review on social media, understand that your review may negatively impact the chamber. Instead, it would be better to handle your displeasure directly with the business to figure out a solution and not on such a public forum.
Because you are a chamber board member, people may assume that when you speak in public you are speaking on behalf of the chamber. Be cognizant of this at all times.
It’s also important to consider that you may be called upon to become a vocal proponent of a chamber initiative or support the legislative agenda of the chamber.
Knowing the Mission
Understanding the mission of the chamber, as well as its strategic initiatives, will help you make decisions and speak more confidently to potential members. If you are given the freedom to make business choices for the chamber, always keep the chamber mission in mind. Ask yourself if that decision or line of conversation is in keeping with the chamber mission.
Another thing that may be required of you is selling a certain number of tickets to each chamber event. Some chambers will expect board members to sell a table at their awards ceremony or sell a specified number of single seats at events.
If your chamber has business after-hours events or networking breakfasts, you may be given a number of free tickets in order to give potential members a taste of chamber offerings. You may be expected to give their names to the membership chair or bring a specified number of potential members to each event. Find out what these chamber board member expectations are so you don’t fall behind (especially if you have assigned numbers to meet).
Governing and Legislative Initiatives
One of the reasons you were likely selected for this prestigious role is your business knowledge. As a chamber board member, you will be expected to exercise this business knowledge for the betterment of the chamber. As mentioned earlier, you will be called upon to vote for things that will affect the future direction of the organization.
You will also be involved in supporting the chamber’s legislative initiatives. Every year, the chamber outlines its legislative agenda with an eye on local, state, and federal legislation. The board likely will decide what legislation the chamber will back and how they will do that. In these situations, they may also decide what part of the budget will be allocated to these pursuits. If you have a legislative director at the chamber, you may receive debriefs from them on the legislative progress of pro-business bills.
Ribbon Cuttings and Other Public Appearances
As a chamber board member, you may be called upon to attend a specified number of ribbon cuttings or other public-facing chamber events. These could include new business openings, anniversaries, and public initiatives. Many of these are during the business day and may require a flexible schedule.
Heading Up Committees
Some chambers place their board members on committees or require they head them up. If there’s a particular committee you find interesting or one that fits your skill set well, let the chamber know. Even if committee service is not required, there may be a position of interest to you. However, make sure this is not in violation of the chamber by-laws.
Supporting Your Chamber During a Crisis
Board members are vital during a chamber, community, or world-wide crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve written an article with guidelines for being a great board member, providing support during COVID, but the ideas can be applied to any time of need.
Finally, being a chamber board member is a great honor and responsibility. Chamber of commerce board responsibilities give you the opportunity to see your community in a new light and meet many new people.
While you will be part of the advisory body of the chamber, the day-to-day operations/administration will likely fall onto your Executive Director’s or CEO’s head. Understanding the job duties of the CEO and the board will help you work together more successfully.
In order to be the most effective chamber board member possible, it is important to know your chamber by-laws. If there’s something that strikes you as inefficient or out-dated, perhaps it’s worth changing. However, you’ll need to have a firm understanding of the process before you can do any of that.
Good luck and enjoy your term.
This article is part of our “Now What?” series, designed to help new members, new chamber staff and new board members get up and running to be an effective part of your chamber of commerce as quickly as possible.
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