Starting a Chamber: Checklist

Mission Statement
The mission statement is usually one sentence and identifies three elements: (1) the organization, (2) its members, and (3) what it does for its members. It should complement the IRS application’s “statement of purpose.” A mission statement is required.

Vision Statement
The vision statement is a long-range outlook for where the chamber is headed. This statement is optional.

Values Statement
The values statement provides the guiding principles for the board and staff. It is generally developed well after the startup of the organization as values become clearer.

Strategic Plan
The board develops the strategic plan to set the general objectives and supporting strategies to advance the mission and vision. The plan should include broad goals, strategies to achieve the goals, and performance measures. For example, if increasing membership is the goal, strategies could include membership drives, member incentives for joining, and a membership committee. Performance measures could indicate the number of new and renewing members.

Business or Action Plan
The business or action plan details the delegation and deadlines necessary to advance the strategic plan from the staff’s perspective. A strategic plan should cover three to five years; an action plan usually covers one year and is closely related to the annual budget.

Articles of Incorporation
The Articles of Incorporation, describe the organization and requesting of nonprofit corporate status are submitted to the state government.

Bylaws
Bylaws describe how the organization operates and its relationship to the stakeholders.

Letter of Determination
This document is returned from the IRS indicating that the organization is officially exempt from paying federal income tax. (Use IRS Form 1024 to apply for 501(c)(6) status.)

Sales Tax
A sales tax is needed if the organization intends to sell items such as coffee mugs, shirts, books, and maps. A sales tax dealer number or exemption is likely required.

Occupational License
Check with your local municipal officials to determine if nonprofits need an occupational license.

Insurance
Volunteer immunity may benefit the board of directors. An insurance adviser should determine if general liability, director and officer liability, a fidelity bond, host liquor ability, or meeting event cancellation insurance should be acquired.

Policy Manual
Policies are motions by the board to set best practices for corporate governance and management. As policies are adopted and recorded in the minutes, they should be transcribed annually into the organization’s official policy manual.

Procedures Manual
Procedures are the administrative responsibilities of the staff. Documenting and assembling staff responsibilities in a procedures manual serve to train new staff and promote consistent service for members. If the executive director leaves unexpectedly, the board and staff should reference the procedures manual to sustain operations.

Leadership Manual
Volunteer leaders should receive a leadership manual or board handbook with information about their roles and responsibilities.

Organization Chart
An organization chart depicts the relationship of the board to staff, consultants, and committees.

Meeting Agenda
A well-written and organized agenda guides the meeting and ensures focused discussions on the desired outcomes. Minutes serve as an official record of board actions.

Board Performance Assessment
Board self-assessment encourages an internal look to ensure best practices and high standards of corporate governance.

Committee Description
Every committee should have a written purpose or mission statement as described in the bylaws or in supplementary documents.

Annual Business Meeting
Most states’ corporate laws require an annual business meeting of the members. Be sure to keep proof of the meeting by retaining the agenda and minutes.

Annual Budget
The annual budget forecasts the income and expenses needed for the fiscal year.

Audit
Most organizations require an independent accounting professional to conduct an internal audit of the finances.

Intellectual Property
Properly protect, register, trade mark, or copyright the intellectual property and logos belonging to the chamber as they are developed.

Financial Reports
Financial reports detail income and expense information for board review and comparison against the annual budget on a consistent basis. A monthly report is an example of this type of document.

Software Licenses
Any software installed on the organization’s computers or mobile devices must have appropriate licenses available for inspection.

Membership Application
A membership application facilitates recruitment and should describe the benefits and services of joining. Be sure it complies with IRS requirements for notices about lobbying and deductibility as a business expense.

Membership Roster or Directory
The organization’s membership database must be carefully protected. Be prepared to respond when people or organizations ask to use your roster or directory of members.

Position Papers
As community issues are identified, official positions are adopted by the organization. Position papers are one way to advise stakeholders of the issues and the rationale for their support or opposition.

Job Descriptions for Staff and Volunteers
Written job descriptions detail each staff position. Many organizations also write job descriptions for volunteer officers, directors, and committee chairs.

Employee Handbook
An employee handbook describes expectations, rights, and responsibilities for working in the organization.

Performance Review
A performance review is a document used by supervisors to evaluate staff performance and for the board to evaluate the executive director’s performance.

Surveys
From time to time, the organization surveys members about needs and satisfaction. Surveys provide good two-way communications between the organization and its members.

Logo
A logo representative of the organization and the community should be adopted.

Stationery and Business Cards
Stationery is designed reflecting the image of the organization and is safeguarded against misuse. Business cards should complement stationery.

Style Guide
A style guide describes the preferred use of the logo, colors, fonts, and key terms.

Environmental Scan
The organization’s leadership must anticipate the trends and opportunities that face the community. This may be done through annual or periodic environmental scans resulting in a report or article for members to anticipate the future.

Code of Conduct and Ethics
Many organizations rely on a leadership or member code of conduct or statement on conflicts of interest. This has become important since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act passed in 2002 placing scrutiny on corporate boards.

Antitrust Avoidance Statement
When similar businesses get together, there is some danger that prices or price fixing could occur. To avoid this, many organizations emphasize antitrust avoidance by distributing a written statement.