Kelli Minnerath is the Executive Director of the Alexandria Education Foundation (AEF). AEF was established in 2002 as an independent nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that is dedicated to the continued academic excellence of Alexandria Public Schools. It partners with Alexandria Public Schools to provide financial support for unique learning experiences for students in early childhood education through grade 12. Its focus is on funding projects above and beyond the scope of the state budget and local tax dollars. Funds raised directly impact students through grants to classroom teachers and other funded projects that help support initiatives that further the mission and education goals of the School District.
Christina Metcalf, Writer/Ghostwriter
The Hidden Value Behind Chamber Membership.
Traditionally, a chamber of commerce was a membership organization that supports the interests of its business members. It is not affiliated with the government, nor is it a charity. The chamber is separate from the Better Business Bureau. Now that we’ve explained the traditional notion of chamber membership, let’s dive into what it means to be a member of a chamber of commerce today. If you think chambers are outdated, it’s time you take another look.
As a chamber member, you are represented by a powerful organization. Because they are not government-affiliated, chambers weather the political storms, cannot get voted out of office, and always represent the business community. And since healthy communities are good places to work with strong employment opportunities, a chamber helps all members of a community.
Chamber members are a critical part of the following work in your community.
What Does it Mean to be a Chamber Member?
There is a long list of benefits to chamber membership. But those benefits are only the surface of what you and your employees receive from joining. If you want to be part of something larger than yourself and your business, striving to improve opportunities in your community, chamber membership is an ideal way to do that.
Volunteerism and Cause-based Marketing
There are many ways to volunteer in the chamber. From assisting with events to running educational webinars to serving on the board and more. Your skills or sponsorships will be leveraged in a way that helps you increase your network, your knowledge, and your business exposure.
When you volunteer—and the chamber shares that information with others—your business is aligned with the cause in the eyes of community members. Chambers embrace many causes to improve the quality of life for the communities they serve. Check with your chamber to find out what its goals are or view its strategic plan. You may be surprised by what community efforts it’s championing such as:
Many people who question membership have a narrow-minded view of the chamber as a “business only” entity without realizing that every issue in the community affects business. If the community is not seen as a prosperous one, people won’t want to live, work, or open a business there. Being pro-community is pro-business.
You can likely help with the causes that are important to you through chamber work, while also strengthening your business and growing your network with cause-based marketing.
Community Leadership and Responsibility
Chamber members are viewed as reputable and dedicated to creating (or continuing) a flourishing community. When you become a chamber member, you are announcing to the community that your business is here to stay and you’re investing in the success of the area. Through membership, you are choosing to be part of an organization that has championed the cause of business for many years.
At first glance, you may assume the chamber is comprised of a very homogenous mix of business owners. That is no longer the case. In many communities, the chamber is leading diversity initiatives. Chambers understand the importance of representing every aspect of business and ensuring each voice is heard. Representing minority- and women-owned businesses is a responsibility that chambers take seriously because a chamber can affect change. By amplifying the business owners’ voices and convening community leaders, business owners, and employees, chambers are leading diversity initiatives across the country. They’re advocating for legislation, hosting town halls, and providing educational DEI programs.
Chambers often recognize what the business community needs before individual businesses can address it themselves. As a member of the chamber, you are part of helping traditionally underserved populations discover the joy, opportunity, and challenges of business ownership.
Being a chamber member in the 21st century goes beyond the list of benefits you’ll see in the membership brochure. Sure, those items are good investments for your business, and they can save you money and help you grow but the chamber offers much more than that. The chamber is leading the efforts to make your community a better place to live, work, and play for everyone. And membership offers you a highly visible opportunity to be part of that excitement.
Christina Metcalf is a writer/ghostwriter who believes in the power of story. She works with small businesses, chambers of commerce, and business professionals who want to make an impression and grow a loyal customer/member base. She loves road trips, hates exclamation points, and believes the world would be a better place if we all had our own theme song that played when we entered the room. What would yours be?
Jonathan Jahnke is the Pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church located at 2702 Hwy. 29 N in Alexandria. Good Shepherd is a Missouri Synod Lutheran church. The congregation teaches Bible-based teachings of Martin Luther that inspired the reformation of the Christian Church in the 16th century. The teaching of Luther and the reformers can be summarized in three short phrases: Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone. Worship services are Sunday's at 10 am.