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Chamber campaign for more than membership

SALISBURY — The days of Rowan County Chamber of Commerce volunteers sitting elbow to elbow working the phones to recruit new businesses during an annual membership drive are over.
The chamber used to put people in a board room-turned call center to dial up prospective members and try to convince them to join that very day. Volunteers used to go after any company that did business in Rowan County, even vendors based out of state.
“That just doesn’t work anymore,” said Elaine Spalding, chamber president.
Instead, a team of 100 volunteers (who are competing for a pretty sweet prize) will have a month to sign up 90 new chamber members. The chamber has 823 members.
But the annual effort is not just a membership drive anymore. Volunteers also will work on generating what’s called “non-dues income,” or money for the chamber from sponsorships, advertising and registration fees for programs like Leadership Rowan.
The membership drive is now dubbed the Total Resource Campaign. Dari Caldwell, president of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, will lead the effort, which launches at 5 p.m. Aug. 11 at Rowan Health Pediatrics.
Spalding, who celebrated her first anniversary with the chamber in May, brought the changes with her. Rather than a high-pressure, one-day sales pitch, volunteers have more time to talk with their regular customers and clients about the chamber and the benefits it may offer for them.
For a small business, spouses may need to talk about joining the chamber. For a franchise, the decision may have to go through a corporate office.
“This gives volunteers a month to close the sale,” Spalding said. “You end up with much better chamber members.”
This year, volunteers are targeting locally owned or operated businesses, not vendors based out of state.
“That was not an effective strategy,” Spalding said. “We are looking for people who want to be involved and do business in Rowan County.”
The idea is not only to raise money during the campaign but raise awareness of the chamber and increase involvement in the community. Since Spalding’s arrival, the chamber has started offering more seminars, workshops, entrepreneurial development, a monthly power breakfast, even a dragon boat race coming up this summer.
Encouraging existing members to become more deeply involved with the chamber, as opposed to recruiting a ton of new members, is a nationwide trend, Spalding said.
As chairwoman for this year’s campaign, Caldwell chose a fitting theme considering her line of work. Dubbed “Your Voyage to a Healthy Business,” the campaign has 10 team captains: Donna Barnes of Park Sterling Bank, Ted Goins of Trinity Oaks/Lutheran Services Carolinas, Lynda Lefler of Belk, Thomas Loeblein of Healthcare Management Consultants, Ken Mowery of Rowan Medical Center, Antwaun Thompson of Country Club of Salisbury, Maia Smith of Maia’s Fashions & Renu Derma, Janet Spriggs of Rowan-Cabarrus Commu­nity College and Nancy Wyrick of F&M Bank.
Each team captain will recruit 10 team members. The top producer will win a vacation package worth more than $2,500, and new members who join during the campaign will receive some special perks.
The campaign ends at 5 p.m. Sept. 12, and top producers will be recognized at the cham­ber board meeting Sept. 15.
“The whole idea behind the chamber is to be a resource for the business community,” Caldwell said. “The more people who participate, the stronger we are and the more voice we can have.”
For more information on the campaign, contact Linda Sherrill with the chamber at 704-633-4221 or info@rowanchamber.com.

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