The Chamber’s power lies in its membership, and when you count the roughly 170,000 people who work for its 650 member companies, that is a powerful force indeed.
That’s the simple idea behind the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber Power initiative. About a year ago, Board Chair Ron Meliker, Chair-Elect Duane Carey and the Membership Committee realized if every worker in every department of every business who joins takes advantage of the resources and rewards of membership, then the Chamber is made stronger and the membership is more valuable.
Some of the benefits of Chamber Power already are apparent in existing programs. The legislative voice of the Chamber is powerful in its efforts to create a positive business climate because the Chamber speaks for thousands of employed individuals. The Energy Co-Op uses the strength of hundreds of participants to negotiate the best rate for electricity and natural gas. The Chamber can offer discounted continuing education programs because it is connected to thousands of potential users.
In 2011, the Chamber worked to make Chamber Power more visible and to bring more value to Chamber members through a new online discount program. Members are encouraged to go to the web site http://chamberpower.howardchamber.com, or to click the icon on the Chamber homepage, and post deals and discounts at no cost.
With offers such as one hour of free conference room time, 20% off health and fitness services and half off your lunch entrée, to name just a few examples, local businesses reach out to the community. Chamber Power encourages customers to shop locally for goods and services and to support the business community in Howard County.
“The next step is for every Chamber member to recognize the great value in offering a deal, and to submit their discount offer at the site,” said Carey. “As a no-cost way to encourage customers to shop locally, this is a simple decision with a big payoff.”
Three partners now support the program, offering the financial backing Chamber Power needs to grow and become established in the community. With their sponsorship, Apple Ford, Giant Food and The Columbia Association have shown their commitment to community partnerships and to helping local customers save money.
Looking ahead, the principles of Chamber Power can be used to create more member benefits and Chamber programs. One key to making that happen is to engage all of the Chamber’s constituents, not just the CEOs that sign up for the membership.
This year, the Chamber is reminding the people who receive information — whether they open the e-weekly newsletter, check the web site, follow the Chamber on Facebook or Twitter or get its mailings — to “Pass It On.” Letting everyone in your organization know they can attend an event at the member price, join the Young Professionals Network, take advantage of advertising opportunities or use many more member benefits is the best way to make a membership pay off.
When 170,000 members become actively engaged, Chamber Power is powerful for everyone.