By: Krisa Delacruz
Shop local campaigns are, of course, one of the key functions that many Chamber of Commerce organizations promote. These campaigns may get more hype during the holiday shopping season, but can be an important campaign all year long.
The Graham Chamber of Commerce has run a successful Holiday Shopping Spree (shop local campaign) during the Christmas shopping season for years. Businesses “sponsor” to participate and get listed on a card. Shoppers fill their cards by spending money (one card per $25.00 spent) at participating businesses and turn them in for a chance to win $$. The cards must be stamped (in that white box shown below) by the merchant to be entered.
This campaign has evolved over the years, with one of the most crucial enhancements being the implementation of a year-round “Chamber bucks.”
Pitching Chamber Bucks to the Board
When I originally presented this idea to the Board of Directors, there was great reluctance. With good reason, the Board was concerned about the operational side of tracking, reimbursement, risk factors, etc.
However, I tried again, and this time included a stronger pitch about our retail businesses struggling because so many customers were going out of town to shop. When they are paying to be part of a campaign, we have an obligation to our members to ensure that the money given out in prizes is then spent with a participating merchant. Plus, not only did we want to ensure it was spent with a local merchant, but we also wanted it to be obvious to the store owner that their investment with the Chamber had a positive return for their business!
This time, the Board of Directors approved, and we went to work to make it happen!
Of course, the driving factor to implement this program was that we wanted to keep the dollars we give out during the Holiday Shopping Spree campaign in our local community. The Chamber buck program ensures that the prize dollars given out are spent back in the local community (and thus furthers the cycle of those dollars… furthering the economic impact).
The Chamber staff & Board of Directors also felt strongly about being able to communicate value with our members and the Chamber buck program is a tangible way of communicating that value.
How we Made the Chamber “Bucks”
We used our graphic designer to create the Chamber buck, then had them professionally printed.
We chose not to print in house, because we wanted them to be on specific paper, already cut, and high quality. The cost was not outrageous and totally worth it, in my opinion.
I recommend putting an expiration date on your bucks, and you can print it “blank” and use a date stamp to save on cost of printing by ordering in bulk.
We also create “custom” Chamber bucks for specific campaigns. For example, for the Holiday Shopping Spree, we do a custom buck so that we can:
a) track the bucks spent by campaign, and
b) we list the participating merchants on the back of the buck for easy reference.
How Chamber Bucks Works for our Members
To help customers, we maintain a list of participating merchants and we created window stickers for businesses who accept Chamber bucks to display in their door or window. This allows us to add/remove members as they join or as they opt-out of the program.
When the Chamber bucks are spent at a participating merchant, the merchant collects the bucks and then returns them to the Chamber office (in person or mail), and we reimburse them via check, within one business week.
A Few Obstacles to Overcome
While there was some initial confusion, since this was a new concept to our members, businesses quickly realized that there really is not a “downside” to participation, and I can safely say that almost all retail focused members are participating in the Chamber buck program.
When renewal invoices go out each year, it also helps to (gently) remind members that the Chamber buck program has generated considerably more revenue for their business than the cost of the Chamber membership itself. We like to call this… a wise investment!
This program has presented some challenges, but none that outweigh the benefit.
Since we typically give an expiration about 6 weeks to 3 months out (depending on the campaign), it does provide some complexity with reporting on event financials.
We also learned a lesson the hard way and in addition to having the bucks numbered, we added “not redeemable for cash” on the front of the Chamber buck.
Impact of our Chamber Bucks Program
We attracted several new members after launching the Chamber buck program. In addition, we had several businesses opt to purchase Chamber bucks to use as promotion for their business (like live drawings on Facebook), or to use for employee incentives or bonuses.
While there is a slight profit involved (bucks that go unused), it is small and does not even cover the cost of printing.
However, the benefit of this program is about supporting our members and allows a direct connection to the member investment and return (i.e., value). Our mission is focused on helping our members succeed and promoting local commerce. The Chamber buck program allows us to very tangibly, very publicly, serve that mission. Plus… it is FUN!
Beginning January 2020, we also started offering a quarterly Chamber buck “bonus” to Chamber staff members. This incentive was a great way to reward and motivate employees, while also continuing to boost the Chamber buck program. Plus, as we all know, the local businesses love seeing the friendly faces of Chamber staff patronizing their store 😊.
In summary, this program has had a great positive impact on both the community and on the Graham Chamber of Commerce. This program will continue to evolve and grow because, above all else, it serves the very core of our mission: to promote local commerce!
Krisa De La Cruz currently serves as CEO for the Graham Chamber of Commerce and CVB. She relocated back to Graham in 2015 after working more than seven years for the local government consulting firm, Strategic Government Resources based in Keller, Texas.
Krisa has a degree from Texas Tech University in Communication Studies with a specialization in Public Affairs and is currently pursuing her MBA through the Texas Tech MBA for Working Professionals program. In addition, Krisa is a member of Graham Rotary Club and of the First United Methodist Church. She is a volunteer for Remembering Wyatt Dale Water Safety and has previously volunteered for many other organizations. Krisa also serves on the North Central Texas College Foundation Board and the United Way Board of Directors.
At home Krisa stays busy with three children, Kennedy, Owen and Ava, husband Daniel De La Cruz and golden retriever, Chief.
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