I have heard many board members state that they don't want the chamber to become 'too political'. Even Chamber staff professionals have often been overheard at conference stating that their chamber 'doesn't get into advocacy'.
So, you think your Chamber doesn't do advocacy? Think again. If you have had a seat at the table where important community decisions are discussed, that's advocacy. When you meet the mayor for coffee to discuss the business community, that's advocacy. Have you ever hosted a Third-House Session? Yes, that's advocacy too.
Taking larger steps into the advocacy arena leads to greater respect and relevance for the future of your organization. You don't have to carry the flag on issues to be effective (although your members expect the Chamber to do this). You don't have to endorse candidates (although many successful Chambers do.) To step into this arena, simple successes come by sharing resources about business related issues. Poll your business members to identify key issues or trust the appointment of a governmental affairs task force to help the Board identify the key issues. This will move your Chamber up to the next level of relevancy. Start local by hosting a State of the City or County. Host candidate forums for key elections. Arrange appointments to share dialogue with key elected officials. Be the convener for community leaders to come together for problem solving. For the state and federal level issues, tap into the resources available through our friends at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber to share hot button information on key issues through your newsletter or social media. These resources will help your Chamber to look like a superstar in providing professional resources to your local business leaders.
It's sometimes hard to lead a hesitant board into the advocacy arena but the results will be overwhelmingly positive for your Chamber once you take this step. And that's why you get paid the big bucks . . .to lead the Chamber in reaching successes that the Board cannot yet envision. Do you have suggestions on helping peers grow in this area? Post a comment below. Are you still thinking that Chamber's should not engage in advocacy? I'd love that feedback also and a chance to grab a cup of coffee to listen to your why on hesitating in this area.
Let's make great things happen in 2019. Identify the issues and position the Chamber to play a key role in problem solving. You will quickly find relevance and purpose for your business leaders to see value in the Chamber as you move toward greater successes in this area. If you need help with getting started, I'm only a phone call away.
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