COVID-19 has brought new challenges to small businesses (and yes, we know that’s the understatement of the year) but many are trying to make the best of it by doing things like auditing their platforms, getting creative with new ways to engage with members, and looking for new opportunities to connect with their communities and raise funds.
If you’re managing a chamber of commerce (or just getting one started), you might be wondering how best to support your members throughout this challenging time.
To help you out, we’ve put together this list of ideas to help your chamber of commerce members survive and thrive throughout COVID-19.
We’ve also included examples from Wild Apricot customers so you can see how they would work in real life.
Ready to get inspired? Let’s dive in.
1. Create an Online Community for Networking
In the first few months of COVID-19, chambers, nonprofits, and other organizations that relied on fundraising and community events to keep their businesses running were understandably worried. But organizational leaders quickly adapted for the sake of their businesses, their members, and their customers by creating online spaces that took the place of in-person meetups.
A few of our favorite ideas for creating an online community for networking are forming a Slack group and allowing your members to message one another, share resources, post job listings, etc. We’ve also seen organizations host online trivia games and movie viewing parties.
Want more ideas? Check out our 2020 Virtual Event Report for ideas to consider for your chamber.
2. Provide Online Training
Outside of a pandemic, education is usually a big focus for chambers — and even though in-person meetups aren’t possible, there’s no reason to stop doing so during a pandemic either.
After all, enrollment at Coursera – an online platform that offers massive open online classes — has skyrocketed and was 640% higher from mid-March to mid-April than during the same period last year.
The rise in people that have more flexibility in their workdays or have been laid off and are looking to learn new skills have made these education hubs popular and can provide a member benefit when other benefits, like in-person events, are stalled.
Whether you decide to hire a trainer or one of your chamber business owners volunteers to lend their expertise, you can choose to offer a discount to members for training or keep it free as part of their membership.
Here’s an example of a simple but effective online training webpage from Lindsay & District Chamber of Commerce.
By adding learning management software to your website, it’s simple to create opportunities like this for members.
3. Sell Gift Cards To Their Businesses on Your Site
Many businesses, especially those in food & beverage and hospitality, have had to largely pause or scale back their business offerings. Many of them have asked that the community support them by purchasing gift cards that allow for the business to receive revenue now and the gift card buyers to use them for carry-out or when their businesses re-open.
A great way to support the organizations in your chamber would be to feature and sell their gift cards on your chamber website. A lot of chambers have a special COVID-19 support page they have developed in the past several months. You could add a section on a COVID-19 page that says something like, “Click here to buy gift cards and support local business.”
You could also add a section on the main navigation that reads “Buy local gift cards,” and create a webpage where all of the chamber businesses who want to participate in your gift card program are listed with links to purchase the gift cards.
Finally, you could also consider adding a button to the business directory page (more on that later) that says “Buy gift card” on the business profiles. And, remember, it doesn’t hurt to try a couple of these approaches at the same time.
4. Create a Member Directory
In the section above, we mentioned a member directory — a place where you can include all of your members, what they do, and how to contact them. Successful member directories should include the name of the business, the business logo if they have one, and the best contact information (phone and email).
You also want to make it easy to search the directory, so adding categories to help filter different industries or products is helpful as well as adding a search bar. The most important thing to keep in mind when building your member directory is to keep the information updated and make it easy for members to find each other and the public to find and use your member directory as a source to partner and support local businesses.
The East Portland Chamber of Commerce offers a good example of an easy-to-use member directory:
5. Share Updates About Their Businesses on Your Social Media
So far, we’ve talked a lot about supporting businesses on your chamber website. But in the age of social media, it’s just as important to show your support for your chamber members on whatever profiles you have set up.
You don’t have to overdo it, but considering you’re probably already posting multiple times during the day, you should have time to share posts related to your chamber members like:
You can also share shoutouts like the one below from the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce.
It’s great to be able to share members’ successes too!
6. Allow Members To Create Guest Posts on Your Site
It’s become a common practice in marketing for businesses to invite partners and customers to write a post about a topic that’s relevant to both of the businesses and publish it as a blog. By sharing the blog post, a business can educate their readers on a topic of interest from a fresh perspective, they generally get new readers since the writer of the blog promotes it on their websites and social platforms, and a website can even see an increase in their website rankings in Google as more readers are driven to a highly relevant topic.
We encourage chambers to do the same by inviting their members to submit a post about a topic that they’re passionate about. That way, the chamber is highlighting the expertise of its members, exposing them to the public, and building their content libraries.
The East Portland Chamber of Commerce features a blog written by one of its members.
7. Provide a Place for Members To Promote Discounts
Discounts for members are always an appealing benefit of chamber membership, and during a pandemic, they’re more desirable than ever!
If you choose to include them on your site, you want to ensure that the discount page is clear and enhanced by visuals, whether that be company logos or digital coupons. Depending on how many discounts your chamber offers, you could consider adding a search bar or listing the discounts by categories like industry type or product or service type.
And don’t be afraid to emphasize that the discounts are for members only. It may feel a little exclusive, but it’s important to showcase the pros of joining your chamber!
8. Create a Job Board
A lot of people are looking for jobs right now. As a chamber, you can be a bridge between your members who are looking for extra help to your members looking for their next opportunities.
Having a job board for members to feature their job listings, providing direct contact information, and making it easy for job seekers to apply are all features that members are especially grateful for during these challenging times.
The Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce provides their members with a frequently updated job board:
9. Spotlight Your Members
At a time when businesses could use a boost in revenue and exposure, an easy way to draw attention to your chamber’s organizations is by dedicating a little bit of space on your homepage to a member spotlight.
It’s as simple as featuring the name of the company, a link to the website, and a logo. If you have the space on your website, you could even get a little creative and add the category of business and a fun fact or quote about the featured member.
Check out the member spotlight that’s front-and-center on the Cohase Chamber of Commerce homepage.
Whether you are looking to try some of these new ideas or you’re one of the many organizations that are using the pandemic to revisit their platforms and tools, we hope you’ll reach out to us with any of your chamber questions — or comment below if you have any other ideas we should add.
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