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Frequently Asked Questions About Accreditation
- What exactly is Accreditation?
- What are the benefits of becoming accredited?
- What are the deadlines for submitting application materials?
- What is the fee for the Accreditation application process?
- How long does the application process take?
- How are we evaluated?
- Are there minimum requirements for Accreditation?
- Do I need a Political Action Committee (PAC) to become accredited?
- What do we receive upon becoming accredited?
- How long does my chamber's Accreditation status last?
- How is the star ranking system for local chambers determined?
- How are state chambers ranked?
- What if our accredited chamber has merged with a non-accredited chamber?
- Our chamber has been accredited in the past. Is the process different to reapply?
- We just learned of the new Accreditation application, but we went through Accreditation last year—do we need to go through the process again this year?
- Is the decision of the Accrediting board final?
- What is the make-up of the Accrediting Board?
- Whom can I contact with questions about Accreditation?
The Accreditation Program defines standards of excellence in chamber planning and performance and shows chambers how they can reach and maintain these standards. It also helps chambers measure achievement while recognizing and encouraging chamber members and staff who meet high standards of operation and who contribute effectively to the good of their chambers and communities.
The criteria and standards used in the guidelines become tools for management control and self-discipline—guiding the organization by helping it upgrade and improve its basic effectiveness. Chambers that have earned Accreditation value the process as a worthwhile experience. It has helped them focus attention on the many important factors that add to successful chamber performance.
What are the benefits of becoming accredited?
- Enhances leadership development
- Provides a measuring stick with which to evaluate the quality of the chamber
- Provides better direction for the chamber board and staff
- Helps chambers develop a realistic program of work
- Promotes upgrades in chamber bylaws, policies, and procedures
- Develops pride in the organization
- Helps with membership development
- Brings prestige, respect, and recognition to the chamber
What are the deadlines for submitting application materials?
There are three deadlines each year for submitting your Accreditation application and fee. Each deadline corresponds with an Accrediting Board meeting, at which time the board reviews and votes on applications.
The deadlines are as follows:
- March 31—June board meeting
- August 31—November board meeting
- December 31—February/March board meeting
What is the fee for the Accreditation application process?
- $699 for U.S. Chamber members
- $1,199 for nonmembers
Please submit the appropriate fee along with the application.
How long does the application process take?
We suggest that you begin the application process at least six months prior to submission. Chambers typically spend between six and nine months completing the application process.
From the date of submission, it takes approximately two months for us to process your application. Please do not contact the chamber during this time; we will contact your chamber if we need clarification or additional information.
How are we evaluated?
Your application will be reviewed by U.S. Chamber staff, an independent accrediting consultant, and the U.S. Chamber Accrediting Board. All essays and supporting documents included in your application should be as specific as possible since you are assessed only on the application submitted; information that is merely implied is not eligible for scoring. We provide feedback to all applicants.
Are there minimum requirements for Accreditation?
Yes, there are minimum requirements for Accreditation that must be met, without exception, in order to be considered for Accreditation. These requirements are listed on the Accreditation application, at the beginning of each section. (Please note that a full financial audit conducted by a CPA is a minimum requirement for Accreditation; see Section 2 Finance for additional information.)
In 2006 the application was modified by no longer counting the minimum requirement points (i.e., 53 out of 53, or 100%) toward the final score. As a result, the Accreditation scoring process was strengthened by six percentage points.
Do I need a Political Action Committee to become accredited?
Your chamber does not need a Political Action Committee to achieve any level of accreditation.
What do we receive upon becoming accredited?
The U.S. Chamber will prepare a press release and recognize your status on its Web site. In the weeks following your Accreditation, you will receive a letter from U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue, a personalized Accreditation certificate, and access to marketing materials to promote your successful Accreditation. Also, your chamber will have the distinction of being one of the nation's leading chambers of commerce.
How long does my chamber's Accreditation status last?
Accreditation status expires after a period of five years. The U.S. Chamber needs to receive a completed current application before your five years of Accreditation lapse.
How is the star ranking system for local chambers determined?
Once the application has been reviewed by the third-party Accreditation consultant, a designation of either Accredited, Accredited with 3 Stars, Accredited with 4 Stars, or Accredited with 5 Stars will be recommended based on the number of points scored in each section of the review. All minimum requirements must be in order to be eligible for Accreditation. A chamber earning at least 70% of the total number of points (116 or 117 points, depending on whether or not the chamber has affiliates) will be awarded Accredited with 3 Stars; 80%, Accredited with 4 Stars; 90% or more, Accredited with 5 Stars.
How are state chambers ranked?
Once the application has been reviewed by the third-party Accreditation consultant, a designation of either Accredited State Chamber or Accredited State Chamber with Distinction will be recommended based on the number of points scored in each section of the review. All minimum requirements must be in order to be eligible for Accreditation. A chamber earning at least 90% of the total number of points will be awarded Accredited State Chamber with Distinction.
What if our accredited chamber has merged with a non-accredited chamber?
If your accredited chamber has recently merged with a non-accredited chamber, you are considered a brand new entity. Because there is considerable change concerning strategic plans, finances, policies, and facilities, you must start over with the Accreditation process.
Our chamber has been accredited in the past. Is the process different to reapply, and do we have to submit a new application?
The Accreditation process is the same for all chambers, whether previously accredited or not. A chamber is only scored on the application in hand, so yes, a chamber must reapply for Accreditation by submitting a new application. Unlike in the past, the scoring guidelines will be updated every year to reflect changes in the chamber industry. Chances are, the guidelines that you use today will not be the same guidelines used five years from now when you renew your Accreditation.
We just learned of the new Accreditation application, but we went through Accreditation last year—do we need to go through the process again this year?
No, you will keep your regular five-year schedule. For example, if you were accredited two years ago, you will still renew your Accreditation three years from now, using the most recently updated application.
Is the decision of the Accrediting Board final?
The U.S. Chamber and the Accrediting Board take great lengths to review each application. Status levels are not considered lightly, and the Accrediting board stands behind each approval given.
However, if you believe an area has been overlooked, you may appeal your Accreditation status. The purpose of an appeal is to correct a miscalculation, interpretation, or evaluation of the original application submitted. If you choose to submit an appeal, please click Accreditation Appeal Process to view the steps for filing an appeal.
What is the make-up of the Accrediting Board?
The Accrediting Board is composed of businessmen and businesswomen who are members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, as well as chamber CEOs from across the U.S. who manage accredited chambers. The current Chairman of the Accrediting Board is Richard Studley, IOM, President and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
Whom can I contact with questions about Accreditation?
You can contact Ali Ehrlich in Political Affairs and Federation Relations for all questions regarding the application and best practice pointers at firstname.lastname@example.org.