A message from Michael Harlow, Ohio State Director, ReadyNation
Many suburban and rural Chambers of Commerce operate on tight budgets with no more than two paid staff. If that’s the case for you, then spending a lot of time chasing new members isn’t necessarily the answer. You may very well end up churning through members and burning yourself out at the same time.
At the CCEO Winter Conference last week, I asked a room full of Chamber Execs how many of them operated with only one or two paid staff. The overwhelming majority raised their hands. Then I asked how many of them have between 200 and 300 members in their Chambers. Approximately half the room raised their hands again.
Then we dove a little deeper into the membership trap. I asked the audience to make three assumptions:
On the surface, these sound like lofty promises, and they may even sound too good to be true. But here’s the problem: even if they are true, your net results are a gain of only one new member in the first year. Here’s the math:
Part of the value of attending the CCEO Winter Conference is being challenged to think differently about your Chamber operation. It was clear that a lot of Chamber execs in the room were surprised by the math.
As you can see, depending on whether we round a decimal point up or down over the course of time, it will take you at least ten years to go from 250 members to 260 members. During that ten year span, you will have churned through at least 25 members per year. In other words, you will have churned through 250 members during that time to increase your membership rolls from 250 to 260 members, only to find that by using the same math, your net gain is ZERO members in the eleventh year!
Reality can be depressing sometimes. What’s even more depressing is that it doesn’t get any easier if your Chamber is more than 260 members. For example, Chambers with 500 members need to gain one new member per week combined with 90% member retention just to reap net growth of just two members for an entire year’s work!
Of course, ultimately you are a membership organization and membership is important. All I am saying is that you need to be aware that membership can have a limited impact on your budget. You need to evaluate whether or not you have the right revenue models and dues structure. You also need to be open to a variety of non-dues revenue opportunities, even if they do not originate in your community.
More importantly, your Board of Directors needs to be aware of this math, and they need to commit to doing all that is necessary so that Chamber Executives can lead successfully.
A couple of weeks ago, I learned from a detective at a local police department that someone had attempted to open a business account at a high end electronics store and a couple of business lines in my name. The perpetrator had my social security number, driver’s license number, and home address.
I can’t really say that I was angry. Identity theft is far too commonplace for me to believe that I am somehow exempt. Part of me was just plain disgusted. All I could do was shake my head and mutter, “Everything is for sale, I guess,” in the stark realization that a huge market exists for personal information, and mine has been bought and sold for ill-gotten gain. These buyers and sellers don’t give a damn about you or me or anyone else. They just want the personal information so that they can commit fraud and other crimes. As you can see from my tone, I am still disgusted.
Another part of me was relieved and thankful that I have ID Shield, a benefit that is offered to Chamber members through SOCA by our friends at Data Guard Partners. It is reassuring to know that I can call someone immediately with a team of people who are working on my behalf.
Kara at Data Guard talked me through how to access and print my credit report. Then she advised me to call the Kroll investigators at ID Shield to report the matter.
When I contacted Kroll, an investigator named Chase asked me how I knew that the detective at the police department was legitimate, and not someone impersonating a detective. My face reddened and I felt embarrassed. I told him I hadn’t thought of that. He asked if I gave any additional personal information over the phone and I replied that, fortunately, I didn’t volunteer anything new.
Chase also recommended getting a copy of my credit report and he also said that they would send me a ChexSystems report to see if any new accounts had actually been opened in my name. Additionally, he urged me to make sure that detective was legitimate (She was legitimate. I called the City, asked to be transferred to the police department, and then asked to speak with the detective by name and got to her for a second conversation.).
I received my Chexsystems report in the mail about a week later. So far, so good. There are no new accounts. But who’s to say that it won’t happen again? It’s abundantly clear that key pieces of my identity have already been bought and sold.
Last year, SOCA rolled out ID Shield with Data Guard Partners (along with Legal Shield). It is our belief that Identity Theft is here to stay, and it is only going to get worse. Nick Goodwin of Data Guard Partners pointed out, “Did you know that the average American worker is twice as likely to suffer an identity theft than a broken bone, and the Federal Trade Commission says that identity theft issues suffered by American workers account for a minimum of 100 hours of lost productivity time per worker who suffered a breach? A recent survey of American workers also found that 66% of respondents took at least one day off from work in the past year to deal with legal issues.”
Legislation has already begun to catch up to this new fact of life. Employers may now purchase identity theft protection services for their employees and receive a tax deduction. SOCA chose ID Shield because identity theft is not just a personal issue. Rather, legislators recognize that identity theft affects employers and employees.
There are really only three ways to solve an identity theft: Reimbursement, Resolution, and Restoration. Reimbursement is popular because of its extremely low cost. However, this doesn’t provide any proactive monitoring of my personal information. Rather, it simply reimburses me for my time and expenses to fix my identity on my own if my information is ever used by a thief.
Resolution is a step better as it focuses almost exclusively on proactive credit monitoring (think Lifelock). Yet, as I understand it, this accounts for less than 20% of identity theft in the United States. These types of services also provide “800 number” assistance if I ever have any questions while I am fixing my own ID.
Restoration is the best form of protection. Restoration services monitor all aspects of a “member identity” including credit and non-credit related identifiers such as medical insurance cards, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, court records, address changes, etc. Additionally, restoration also provides licensed and credentialed investigators to completely restore a member back to pre-theft status in the event of a breach on the member’s behalf.
SOCA is committed to providing employers with products like ID Shield’s full restoration services that provide exceptional value.
Your information is for sale and so is mine. That is the new reality, no matter how disgusted I may feel about it. On days like the one I experienced a couple of weeks ago, I’m very glad that my family is covered by ID Shield.
With tax time in full swing, it’s easy to get swept up in the chaos of this busy season. However, this chaos undoubtedly contributes to the uptick in email scams trying to take advantage of businesses. We are here to help prevent this from affecting your business through education.
Return vs. Value
Through our decades of history in the chamber of commerce, we as professionals have had difficulty explaining the value of joining your local chamber. The ACCE Horizon 2025 report tells us that we can no longer rest on the fact that a business will join the local chamber just because its the right thing to do.
How do we explain real value to the membership, the community in a manner that illustrates the value that we already believe it to be? The real value that membership to the Chamber of Commerce brings is now being explained by VOI and not ROI. We will attempt to give you five reasons why you should also consider this change.
Value of Investment - The Chamber brings its members valuable cost-savings programs that directly impact its members bottom line. Traditional programs have been Health Insurance, Worker's Compensation Pooling, Energy Programs, Member-2-Member discounts programs - all designed to lower the cost of doing business.
Value of Information – The Chamber brings its members unique resources – Roundtable discussions, workshops, advocacy on local and state issues, contacts, reference to other businesses, expertise – all information that is timely and relevant to the success of your business operation.
Value of Influence – The Chamber represents its members and communities interests – whether it is representing your business at the local, state or federal level, the Chamber is the advocate on all issues of importance to business.
Value of Interaction – The Chamber provides its members opportunity – people want to do business with people they know, like and trust. Numerous networking events, Member-2-Member programs, and partnerships foster relationships that encourage leads, referrals and more business for our members.
Value of Impact – The Chamber is one of the few, if not the only, organization that can impact the three main pillars in its service area (Government, Citizens, and Businesses). ACCE's Horizon 2025 report tells us that this helps to position the chamber in a place of opportunity to deliver like we never have before. The Chamber represents the area in which they serve – the strength of the membership and the direct results of the initiatives affect outcomes that benefit the members.
Special thank you goes to St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce for the idea and concept of this post.