Credibility and relevance are two keys to success in today’s ever-changing membership-based organizations. Accreditation through the U.S. Chamber (the only national program of its kind for chambers) is a “good housekeeping seal of approval” that you can promote to your members as well as a great self-audit tool for your organization, volunteer leadership, and staff.
In a time where every dollar and program is being scrutinized, your members can be assured that their investment is supporting a chamber that has comprehensive policies and procedures in place and that your relevance to your community has been tested by industry experts.
I have found that accreditation is particularly helpful for chambers going through staff leadership or structural changes, which is often a good time to re-focus to ensure that the dynamics of the organization are ‘up to par’ and that programs are changing based on the needs of a growing and diverse membership.
To earn accreditation a chamber must meet minimum standards in its operations and programs. This includes areas of governance, government affairs (a must for higher level accreditation), program development, technology, human resources, communications, finance and facilities. This extensive self-analysis typically can take up to nine months to complete.
Local chambers are rated four ways – Accredited, 3-Stars, 4-Stars or 5-Stars. Once applications are processed and vetted, the final determination is made by the U.S. Chamber’s Accrediting Board, a committee of the U.S. Chamber’s Board. State chambers are recognized as either an Accredited State Chamber or Accredited State Chamber with Distinction. More information can be found here.
When I served at the Irving-Las Colinas Chamber in Irving, Texas, we applied for accreditation and were awarded 5-Stars, the first in Texas. Our staff and volunteers worked several months evaluating our programs, ensuring that all details of our application were thorough and complete. Since that time (2009), I continue to be a huge proponent of accreditation. This process not only helped our chamber advance and mature, but validated the significance of the chamber as a “business enterprise” to our members. The process also allowed for significant team-building and development among our volunteers and staff.
If your local or state chamber is known as a “problem-solver” and “job creator”, I would encourage you to go through this valuable process – you are ready to “show off” your chamber as a model for others in all areas of your organization.
Today, seven years later, Texas is proud to have 12 chambers with 5-Star Accreditation and a total of 31 accredited chambers. We (at the Texas State Chamber – Texas Association of Business) will be going through the accreditation process soon. Will you join us?