Hello Chamber…it’s the Arts Calling

Posted by Linda Woggon, Apr 14, 2016 2 comments

Building partnerships is one of the most effective advocacy strategies we can employ. The right partners expand our reach and diversify our voice. Even more importantly, I believe we can supercharge our advocacy campaigns by engaging non-traditional partners.

Assembling a coalition that includes the art museum down the street, the arts education advocates around the corner, and the jazz group next door, is an important first step. But, have you ever tried reaching out to your local chamber of commerce? 

Every day, chambers of commerce strive to make their communities great places to live, work and raise a family.  Many also market their area’s tourism attractions. Their mission is to create a strong business climate and improve their community’s quality of life. 

We all know arts and culture positively impact a community’s economy and quality of life. In my state of Ohio the creative industries support 231,000 jobs and contribute $31.8 billion to our economy. A vibrant arts and culture sector makes a community more appealing to a creative workforce, attracts new businesses, and draws tourists and the services to support them.    

I spent nearly my entire career building successful advocacy programs for chambers of commerce. So, let me offer a few observations about how arts organizations can benefit by partnering with their local chamber and some ways they might move forward.

First, a few “Chamber of Commerce 101” facts:

  • The U.S. Chamber, state chambers, and local chambers are separate entities that work together in a federation structure. One doesn’t control or speak for the other and they are governed separately.
  • The U.S. Chamber, state chambers and some large regional chambers help build a strong business climate by advocating for pro-business policies.
  • Most local chambers of commerce are community builders with a broader constituency and more comprehensive approach to economic development.
  • All chambers of commerce are not-for-profit membership organizations.

You might consider becoming a member of your local chamber of commerce. Once a member, you can participate in the benefit programs, sit on a committee, and attend networking events and other programs. It’s a great way to connect with business and community leaders. 

Whether you join or not, reach out to the chamber’s leaders and begin to build a relationship. Help your local chamber leadership understand what can occur at the intersection of the arts and community development. Then identify the best ways to strengthen your community together. 

Over the past year I’ve seen chambers of commerce and arts organizations successfully partner on funding mechanisms for arts and culture, historic preservation tax credits, film tax credits, and marketing campaigns.

So, maybe a chamber of commerce isn’t such a non-traditional partner after all. The first step is simply getting past our perceived differences and finding the right places to connect.

What non-traditional partnerships have you formed and how have they helped advance the arts in your community?

Linda is a member of Americans for the Arts. Learn more about membership.

2 responses for Hello Chamber…it’s the Arts Calling


April 19, 2016 at 6:23 pm

Thank you for this.  Very good advice.
We often don't align ourselves with some of the groups whose objectives are often similar to our own.
Jerry Yoshitomi

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Ms. Deborah Malden says
May 03, 2016 at 8:58 pm

We at the Boulder Chamber agree wholeheartedly that organizations such as ours should be connected to the arts community. In fact, that’s my job as the Boulder Chamber’s Arts Liaison and Advisor. Not long ago, the Chamber supported a tax to help support the arts. The Chamber also supports an annual Boulder Arts Week  and has showcased special arts performances at Chamber events. Recently, we wrote about how important the arts are to Boulder on our blog site at http://bit.ly/1rSqs1h . 
Deborah Malden


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