Using New Members to Drive Networking Groups
[Intro] Welcome to chats with chambers with your hosts Patrick Kirby and Sami Bedell-Mulhern. Each week we connect and learn from executives of chambers of commerce from across the country. These short episodes will share success stories, challenges, best practices, and tips and tricks to inspire you, and provide resources for hitting your organizational goals. From recruiting new and retaining current members to finding new and creative revenue sources. You’ll hear straight from those leading chambers and communities throughout the US. Chats with chambers is proudly brought to you by the Nonprofit bootcamp. Learn more and check out the show notes for episodes at https://nonprofitbootcamponline.com
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hey, everybody, welcome to another episode of chats with chambers, where we talk with chamber executives about what’s working well. And they can provide tips and tricks for all you other chamber leaders out there to continue to grow and build on your organization. I am thrilled today to have Quinn Cooper from the Ralston Nebraska Chamber of Commerce here today as my guest Quinn, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about the roll scenario Chamber of Commerce?
[Quinn Cooper] Well, I am Quinn Cooper, Executive Director of the Ralston Area Chamber of Commerce, we have a little over 250 members, we serve as a small community. But when we say Ralston area, that’s because we reach out to the Omaha area, we reach out into Sarpy County, which is our neighbors. And we just really want everybody to be a part of us at We are vibrant. We’re young, we are growing. And so I’m really excited to be here and have this opportunity to talk with you.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] That’s awesome. Is there like a success story or something that you’re really particularly proud of that the Ralston chamber has been able to do to serve your community?
[Quinn Cooper] Yes, there is a story when I first took over the job, there were only two networking groups and networking is important. And we wanted to focus on business to business, we found a need, these groups met twice a month. And I felt like the cadence did not make sense. So I have brought on an additional three groups that meet weekly. And we’ve already done some volunteer work with one group, and we went to the Hope Lodge is the place for people who are battling cancer. And this group of 15 people, we raised money to get food and water to these people things they need, then what that does is that group becomes a small family. And it brings strength to the chamber. And I love networking groups. I’ve been working in chambers for the past five years. So that would be my success story.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I love that. And I think that is so critical, especially right now is we’re kind of coming out of COVID. And people are starting to get back together. Question How did you determine which types of networking groups you were going to add and develop in to best suit the needs of your members.
[Quinn Cooper] I found so I use new members, people who are in and they’re energized. And in my experience with chambers, if somebody is just joining these are your linchpins like and we don’t want to have attrition, we want them to be members forever. These new people earn engaged. So they became presidents of these groups. And the groups go from 671 week to next week. They’re 15. And now their email list of people are sitting out to like 3637 people, maybe 20, they’ll show up, but in there’s energy, and we use social media a lot to show pictures and be like, Hey, here’s this group, we we started using pictures of the actual groups instead of stock photos. Yeah, people can see it, like the actual location where it was that these are people in the group. So and, you know, and you know, actually makes my job easier once the President gets to take over. And that’s our group. And I might not be there every time but I definitely make sure I visit. So did I fully?
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, so kind of sharing the load. So you took the energy and the excitement of the new members to kind of help build and facilitate. And then you’re just there to kind of coordinate and keep the energy going and check in and be support resource if they need them.
[Quinn Cooper] Yeah, perfect example. And another thing I guess to piggyback on that is, like we have a we have a group of events committee and they’re helping me with my golf tournament. You know what better place to go find people than these networking groups. Then we have ambassadors that are people that follow me to ribbon cuttings. Essential I’m, I’m assuming all chambers do that. But if you’re not doing it, start doing it. Because it gives you a crowd, and it shows that the chamber is celebrating the membership. Yeah, that’s, I feel like they should be done everywhere, but maybe not.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah. So those are some great success stories. What are some things that maybe your chamber has struggled with over the past year or some challenges that you’ve been that you’ve been facing?
[Quinn Cooper] I’m filling the calendar with events and not having enough support to get them done. That’s why I’ve spent a lot of focus on getting ambassadors. So I get 11 warriors out there that are going to do anything for the Ralston chamber, we meet bi weekly, we talk about the events coming up. And if somebody can’t be there, that’s fine. But when I need volunteers at a golf tournament, like we have the biggest parade in the city, in the state of Nebraska 40,000 1000 People will be in Ralston, Ambassadors will be ambassadors and community will be there to help us out. So but challenge is just when you want to put on a really good event. That’s the key you need help. We do launch ins Another challenge is when I do launch ins i this year, we are focusing on having a luncheon that has a topic that has impact, like we don’t want to basically want to do luncheons that have topics, whether it be social media, whether it be diversity, equity, inclusion, whether it be how to use LinkedIn leadership, we want to make sure if we’re asking people to come out that the business people are coming out and they’re getting something out of it. I don’t think they care too much about what they’re eating, they’re coming, you
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] know, I think that’s great. Um, and I think that that’s probably something that’s something we hear from a lot of chambers is the events are kind of the struggle piece on all sides from either getting people to show up or getting them organized or getting the speaker so I don’t think you’re alone there.
[Quinn Cooper] And I will tell you that something else. One tip, I will give all, anybody who’s listening to this, give yourself three weeks. For a ribbon cutting, especially if you’re gonna get a city official or somebody in there, but get that stuff on your calendar, like I have stuff on my calendar all the way up to November already. The end, you know, you do save the dates. And then as you get closer, you make registration go live. Because then you can have an idea. But don’t wait, like don’t be trying to plan for next month. It’s too late. Yep.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah. Well, so that leads into my next question, which is like what is what is your favorite tip or best practice that you utilize in your chamber that you want to share? Is that what you would say is kind of your, your golden nugget, and I probably
[Quinn Cooper] just did it. That and and try to get the city involved. If you can get somebody from the city council or if you can get access to the mayor, have the ambassadors, having these people show up at events are crucial. People don’t realize how much of an impact like the business I just did one Thursday. And when Erica saw the mayor show up, she was like, wait, what, huh? Yeah, I was like, that’s what we’re here for. You know, yeah. That’s what we do. That’s like, it’s fun, you know, and that’s the biggest thing like, make the events fun. You know, they don’t have to be dry. Like, I tell people, I’m bringing the party to you and I support your business. And I give people my cell phone number if you need anything or have any questions, call me. I mean, that’s what I’m here for.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, and it’s clear Quinn, that you’re super passionate about your chamber in your area. So if somebody’s listening from the Ralston area to this podcast, what would be kind of your elevator pitch like why should they join your chamber if they’re not already a member?
[Quinn Cooper] Why should they join? Well, first of all, well, first of all, you should join because we are really fun. We got a good team. We are growing we are small. We are staff at three but our board is new. I would say the best reason to join is because we are in gauged like people are doing things from the wind walk to the parade. You know, we’re the Bowling outing that we’re going to be having coming up. These things are key. But if you’re even if you’re not a member and you’re a new business to Ralston, you don’t have to join for me to bring your partner to you, I’ll bring a ribbon cutting or business after hours to your business, just so you can see what we’re doing. You know, and I feel like, we’ll sell ourselves by that, because we literally take this very serious, you know, it’s always like, Ah, it’s done the vents over because we, you know, we put a lot of work into the front, the front side of it just because we want things to go well.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I love that. Well, you mentioned you’re on social media. So if people want to know more about the Ralston area Chamber, how did they find out about you?
[Quinn Cooper] The best thing is to go to ralstonareachamber.org. All of our links are on there, there is a link to our events calendar on there. You can also look at our directory. If you’re in a real scenario, and you need an accountant or you need a carpenter. Everybody’s listed there. Everything’s there, and we’d love it. If you guys would hang out with us. And for any new people that might be in other cities that watch this. Exec director at Ralston area chamber.org Is my email address, please don’t hesitate to send me an email and we can do a virtual one to one.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I love it. Well, Quinn, thank you so much for being on this episode and sharing your wisdom with all the other chamber executives that are listening out there.
[Quinn Cooper] Alright, thank you for having me.
[Closing] Hey, thanks for listening to chats with chambers. For more information about the chamber featured in this episode or to check out show notes for links and resources. Visit nonprofitbootcamponline/podcast. Hey subscribe, give us a five star review if you liked what you heard and if you are a chamber would like to be a guest on this show. Hey, email us firstname.lastname@example.org Or email@example.com Links in the show notes
Networking groups within the chamber was lacking when Quinn took over. He didn’t feel like they were really taking advantage of the opportunity to support the community. He worked hard to increase the cadence of these networking communities and help make a bigger impact.
Utilizing the energy of newer members can help in building networking groups in the chamber and helping them grow. It also takes some of the pressure off of the Chamber team to build in volunteers and support for upcoming events. Ambassador programs also help with bringing crowds to events natually.
Questions We Asked
- What is the Ralston Area Chamber all about? [1:15]
- What is your success story? [1:59]
- What are challenges you face? [5:38]
- What is your tip and trick to pass on to other chambers? [8:08]
- How can you learn more about the Ralston Chamber? [9:28]
Ralston Area Chamber of Commerce
The Ralston Area Chamber of Commerce is a community based network of individuals and organizations working to empower and connect businesses and our citizens to grow the Ralston area community through innovative leadership, programming and education. Learn more at https://ralstonareachamber.org