Before we talk about how chambers can help members right now, I want to share a recurring dream.
Maybe you’ve had it too?
You’re getting ready to go somewhere, on vacation or you’re packing up to leave school, catch a flight, leave work or move out of a place you used to live. You think you’re finally done and walking out the door with only minutes to spare.
Then someone calls you, needs help, something is lost. The details don’t matter. You swing into action and get that person what they need. You find that object (or do what’s needed) and save the day!
Just when you are about to walk out the door again…
Another thing happens.
And you solve that one too!
But the clock is ticking and there’s so much pressure to wrap things up and you can’t seem to get it all done.
You feel like you’re drowning because no matter what you do, it’s not enough.
The thing that is so upsetting about this dream is that you can’t proceed with your plan. You can’t leave on time. You’ll be late. You feel frustrated, distraught, and panicked. Even though you are solving every problem that is thrown at you, there’s never a resolution. Another situation is right behind it.
When you wake up it is a relief. You can breathe easier because it was all just a dream.
But not this time because this anxiety-ridden situation isn’t a dream. It’s the world we live in.
This is how a lot of business owners feel. They had a way of life and were going somewhere. They had it all planned out. And then…
As if that wasn’t bad enough, just as we’re feeling some sense of normalcy, we have another variant. Numbers skyrocket. The leaders react with safety in mind. Yet, we’re all feeling like we’re trapped in an unfortunate dream where the one thing we want to do is just get back to normal and get on with things.
If you’re feeling this way, finding ways to help members may seem hopeless. But there is always hope! There are several things you can do right now and there are still things to celebrate.
4 Ways to Help Members Right Now
No one likes feeling hopeless. As a chamber pro, you can’t single-handedly keep an organization from going out of business but there are some things you can do to help members including:
Provide Funding Resources
Business owners are running their businesses. In a panic they may look for grants and other funding but the search may feel daunting and they may not be familiar with the funding and application process.
The chamber can help members with this by:
- compiling a list of funding available as well as details on application deadlines, requirements, and other necessities.
- hosting an information session on resources available.
- circulating information about entities outside of the chamber that can also help such as SCORE or your local economic development or small business group.
- posting information in your newsletter, reminding people of upcoming deadlines.
- locating grant writers or volunteers in your community who can help business owners lacking skills in those areas.
- connecting businesses that have the knowledge with those who don’t know how to go about applying.
Create Effective Partnerships
We all want to believe that the chamber is the center of the community — and most times it is.
Your members likely know what you offer but there may be people in your community who don’t.
Partnering with other organizations with broader audiences can help you reach more people in your community who need assistance. And in doing so, you just may win them over to become members.
The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce partnered with the St. Pete Beach Library and the local county chapter of SCORE to create a small business resources hub at the library. Working together they will offer educational materials, workshops, and individual mentoring sessions.
This type of partnership also helps spread the workload behind offering these resources among several groups.
Sometimes, you just can’t do it all on your own.
Restructure Education or Career Skills
The pandemic has certainly changed how and where people work.
Many are considering new avenues or opening their own businesses. Some are realizing they want to work in different industries that require additional training. This is an ideal time to work with local education institutions and businesses to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of your workforce as it exists today.
How can you meet the challenges of tomorrow? Sometimes planning for the future (and better days) can refocus everyone’s attention from current concerns.
Celebrate the Wins
Remember the recurring dream from earlier and how everything seemed to be finished only to then have more piled on?
Living that way can feel like being trapped in a whack-a-mole game, where the minute you dig out, you’re pounded back down again. While you can’t control set backs like a new variant or community restrictions, you can make time for celebrations of wins, even if they’re really small.
Encourage your community to do this by pointing out a few of them yourself such as:
Online Reviews Have Skyrocketed
It looks like the memes of how to support a small business are finally paying off.
According to McKinsey & Company, the increase in reviews is one COVID-related plus we haven’t been talking about. There has been a “surge in the volume of online ratings and reviews—40 to 80 percent higher during the core pandemic months in 2020 than they had been a year earlier. The old levers of brand equity, greater ad spending, and big promotions are simply less relevant in an age when consumers have access to so much word-of-mouth feedback.”
This is a good thing for small business.
Mental Health and Wellness Are Getting the Attention They Deserve
COVID has convinced us all that it’s okay to ask for help and turn to others for assistance.
We’re starting to talk more about mental health, anxiety, and the importance of wellness. Some chambers have hosted events and expos around these important topics. Having difficult conversations about mental health and making time for wellness are now moving past the realm of Human Resources. It’s a conversation many businesses are starting to have on a broader level.
The Importance of Advocacy Is Now More Evident
COVID showed us that who you have in office on a federal and local level determines a lot in business.
Some states closed, while others remained open. Chambers have always advocated for business but COVID may have brought this advocacy to center stage. If you were able to achieve something for your members through advocacy, you should celebrate it with them. Did you help increase outdoor dining space? Did you help the City understand the importance of waiving parking fees so more people would come downtown? Whatever you did, share it by celebrating what it did for the community.
Someone Is Making a Difference
There are people in your community doing some amazing things among the setbacks.
Highlight their efforts. Share what they are doing with the community over social media, in your newsletter, through a video interview, and/or on your website. People need to hear about the good these days.
We’re going through difficult times and it doesn’t look like there will be a return to normal any time soon. Your members may need you more now than they did at the initial outbreak.
Remember, even though it feels frustrating, there are still good things occurring in your area. You just have to look for them and then share them with the people who need to hear them most.
Want more? Here’s an article we published last year with 9 more ideas to help members.