While you may not have the budget to hire additional staff, it can be surprisingly affordable to outsource work – even when outsourcing in your own country. Outsourcing can greatly increase the chamber’s productivity without overwhelming yourself or existing staff even more.
Chambers are expected to do so many things, and you can’t realistically do them all yourself.
If a board member specifically wants you take something new on, I think your response should be something like, “Okay, well if add this to our plate we either need to get rid of something else, hire an additional staff member or outsource it, or we would love to have you volunteer to do it.”
(If they’re not a board member, then I would just jump to, “That sounds great, we would love to have you spearhead that project.“)
That being said, I think outsourcing specific projects can be a great deal for your small staff.
You Can’t Afford Not To Spend Money
One of my frustrations in the nonprofit industry is how restricted we are on spending money. Yes, as a nonprofit we should be spending money smartly or on things that really matter. But I think spending money on things that can make your staff more efficient should be a no-brainer.
When looking at the cost of things that could benefit staff, I urge you to consider:
- How many hours will this save staff?
- (Staff Pay x Hours) – Outsourced Cost = $$ Saved
- How will staff spend the time saved?
- Staff working on important project > spending time on outsourceable tasks
Even if you’re a staff of one, doesn’t it just make since for you to be able to offload data entry so you can meet with city officials?
If you’re not good at graphic design and it takes you 3 hours to create a flyer, why can’t you pay someone to make a flyer in less than an hour so can spend those extra hours helping your members?
I think when you look at it this way it makes a lot of sense. Chances are when you first approach it to your CEO, president, or board whoever, you need to introduce it to them this way. Ideally, they’ll understand the value over time and stop worrying about the little details.
Who/Where to Outsource
You might consider hiring a contractor, whether locally or online. By hiring a contractor they’re working on specific projects or outcomes, so you know exactly what you’re getting – and only paying for that.
You can put out an RFP, solicit someone who’s website you learned from, or use a third-party site live Fiverr or Upwork. If you’re able to spend a little quality time and have regular work, you might also consider creating an internship.
I like to put out requests for specific things that I know how to do, but will just take too much staff time. (As I’m staff, I of course ask my CEO first, but she’s pretty supportive.)
For example, We have a relocation guide / printed member directory. We recieved the PDF from the publishers, which we wanted to publish digitally on our website (in addition to the physical printed copies). One of our selling points was we would make the advertisements clickable. This is something I know how to do (tutorial: How to Add Links to Images in PDFs), but I also wanted to make each member listing in the directory clickable. I estimated this would take me about a whole working day to complete.
I “Posted a Request” on Fiverr, which allows me to put out the task/job I want and people on Fiverr can bid on it. I was specific as possible in my request so that there wouldn’t be as much back and forth or confusion, and people didn’t get surprised later about the work. I included a budget of about $100. I also allotted for a delivery time of a week.
We had about 20 offers, so I read the messages they included & checked their profile to see what kinds of work they usually do. Their profile also includes their location. As a Chamber of Commerce, it was important to us to at least hire someone US-based just to support some variation of local. While there were cheaper offers, I settled on someone who was US-based, did similar-ish work, and their message actually made sense to the project (you can tell who was copy/pasting their same usually message).
After Fiverr fees we spent $105. This is about what we would have paid me to do the same thing. So it wasn’t cheaper, but I was able to to use that time for my usual work. If I had to still do the same amount of work + this project, then we would have saved money based on overtime. If we needed to we could have also allocated this from a different budget. As it was a benefit for our publication advertisers, we could have included it in that budget instead of regular payroll.
My Chamber is very proud about the amount of work we do with only a staff of 2-3 people, so for us the trade off was well worth it.
I plan to continue outsourcing one-off projects like this as I don’t want to manage any recurring work or contractors. However, it might be worth it for you to outsource a recurring project or need after you’ve worked with someone you like.
What Types of Tasks or Projects Can Your Chamber Outsource?
This is a list of ideas to get your brain going. The best one for you to pick is the things you’re not good at, take you the most time, etc. I’ve also included some tasks that require in-person work so that this list can also help you assign useful work to interns.
- Drafting newsletters or emails
- Creating flyers, social media posts, thumbnails, other design work
- Writing articles or other content
- Content maximizing – this would be providing an existing chamber asset and they turn it into a new type of content.
- Example: turning your ribbon cutting checklist for members into an email opt-in or video.
- Creating email campaigns & sequences beyond your newsletter
- Example: a email series targeted towards potential members
- Keyword research or other SEO tasks
- Facebook Group Management (like approving members or deleting posts)
- Video or podcast editing
- Taking your reports and making them pretty
- Editing video captions on existing videos
- Hashtag research
- Posting in social media groups
- Answering messages
- Create social media, blog, or communications calendar/strategy
- Audit online presence
- Write press releases, articles, & blog posts
- Contact potential hosts to schedule events
- Edit & publish event video or other media
- Create workbooks or other material to supplement events
- Tech support or set-up
- Event photography/videography (a decent smartphone is fine)
- Event registration or check-in, or other ‘tabling’
While you probably want someone local to be visiting local, you can still use a virtual assistant edit your sales documents, create invoices, send proposals, or even just schedule visits for you.
Membership & Sponsorship
- Setting up members in ChamberMaster or your AMS/CRM
- Sending proposals to potential members or sponsors
- Creating welcome guide or on-boarding material
- Collecting testimonials
Bookkeeping & Finance
- Sending invoices or payment reminders
- General bookkeeping
- Cashflow tracking
IT & Tech
- Research new software
- Setting up funnels, workflows, or automations
- Software setup
- Website edits or create landing pages
- Check suspicious emails to decide if they’re spam
- Prepare agendas
- Schedule meetings & send out invites
- Collecting applications
- Creating & posting job descriptions
- Setting up project management tool
- Create Standard Operating Procedures
- Create surveys
- Collecting data for metrics or key performance indicators
- Data entry
- Create spreadsheets
- Inbox management
- File management
- Calendar management and/or appointment scheduling
- Miscellaneous solution brainstorming
Final tip: start logging your workflow or checklist for different projects and tasks. Not only will this help your successor, but you can use them as instructions for outsourcing.