Chambers of Commerce represent the interests of business. We are often involved in promoting economic development, convening key influencers to champion visions, and advocating for our members. While we typically generate revenue by attracting investors through sponsorships and memberships, starting a foundation can provide benefits for the organization and the communities we serve. Before starting a foundation, it’s essential to ask the WHY questions and understand the purpose behind it.
Once the purpose is clear, the next step is to consider “will the foundation” questions.
Will the foundation…
- Provide diversity to revenue streams by attracting additional funding from grants, individual and corporate donors, and other sources?
- Increase the organization’s impact?
- Aid in solidifying long-term sustainability of the chamber through endowment building?
- Enhance the chamber’s reputation and increase the overall influence and credibility?
- Facilitate collaboration between the chamber and other organizations and businesses?
Then consider the “who will” questions. These questions can help chambers consider approaches to how they will execute.
- Be sought to serve on the board?
- Be the dedicated staff?
- Be responsible for creating the framework of success?
- Be the doers of the organization?
Chamber foundations can play a valuable role in supporting the chamber of commerce and its community. Alignment is key, and it is important to determine the foundations focus with the final set of “what will” questions.
Will the foundation focus on …
- Economic development: provide funding towards specific initiatives?
- Grant-making: provide grants to local businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations?
- Scholarships: provide scholarships to aid in attracting talent for in-demand occupations?
- Research: provide economic research and analysis to help inform the chamber’s advocacy efforts and provide insights into local business trends and opportunities?
- Workforce development: provide workforce development programs?
- Education: provide support to aligned educational initiatives?
- Community development: provide support to initiatives that improve quality of life?
Success can be measured in several ways, including financial stability, impactful grant-making, strong community partnerships, thought leadership, and tangible results. Ultimately, the success of a chamber foundation depends on its ability to support the chamber of commerce and its community in meaningful ways by providing financial resources, thoughtful leadership, and community partnerships.