The Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce has seen a drastic drop in membership over the past three years.
That's according to Joey Castilleja who presented his analysis at the chamber's monthly luncheon held last Thursday.
Castilleja approached Chamber Director Pam Turner this past November, asking her what the chamber's apparent needs were. Her immediate response: membership. That sparked the PhD student's study of the chamber.
After an extensive study including qualitative, quantitative and in-person interviews with current, recently dropped and non-chamber members in Sunnyside, Castilleja identified four main causes for the low level of memberships of the organization.
The causes identified by the grad student are: members do not perceive value in membership, non-members do not perceive value in membership, business owners do not know how to join or are not prompted to renew their memberships or to join and business owners are frustrated with the events currently offered.
With the condensed list of causes for the chamber's low membership, Castilleja identified recommendations to solve the issue.
"Some of these causes are peoples' perceptions, maybe not actually how things are," he said. "But now we need to work to change their perceptions."
Castilleja says the most important facet of the list of recommendations is to implement an "ambassador group" to include members of the organization that serve as membership ambassadors.
"If you do just one of the recommendations, do this one," he said.
Castilleja defines ambassadors as people that will be out in the community and who are knowledgeable about the chamber, how to join and can speak favorably about the organization to other business owners.
"These people can participate in events such as orientation meetings and ribbon cutting events," he said. "We should be having ribbon cutting events every week."
Another suggestion is to arrange a communication system with the city, where city employees notify the chamber when business licenses are applied for.
Castilleja also says the chamber should re-define and update its mission statement and organization's core values. In addition, it should generate more efficient ways to communicate with their members, non-members and the community as a whole. Ambassadors should also organize a membership drive. He also suggests updating the organization's logo and means of communication, like operating a Facebook page.
"If you're business is not on Facebook, you're not going to be in business much longer," he added.
According to Castilleja, these suggestions cannot be implemented by just one person.
A full edited version of the study and recommendations will be finalized within the coming weeks, and will be posted to the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce website, http://www.sunnysidechamber.com/.
- Amber Schlenker can be contacted at 509-837-4500, or email