GR Chamber Changes Membership

GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has all but finished its conversion to a tiered membership program that it says will allow it to better serve members.

“We’re making it easier on our members,” explained Christine Feuerstein, the chamber’s director of sales.

“The way it worked before,” she said, “is that we would ask a plethora of different questions before we’d answer their question of how much their dues were. Then every time they would add an employee, we would ask for more dues.

“Now we’ve simplified that, disregarding if they’re manufacturing or professional, if they’re downtown or in the suburbs.”

In the new system, companies are arranged in four tiers by headcount.

Small companies — 25 employees or less — looking to grow their business through the chamber’s networking and marketing opportunities qualify for the Entrepreneur tier.

Slightly larger companies — 26 to100 employees — enter in at the Investor tier. Also open to Entrepreneur level companies, this tier can provide extra publicity and recognition along with discounts on chamber products.

Higher up the chain is the Executive tier — 101 to 250 employees — that offers all the benefits of the Investor tier, but with added special events and programs

The Trustee tier — 250 or more employees — offers the same features with additional recognitions, discounts and benefits. 

While a company cannot opt for a tier lower than its headcount would suggest, Feuerstein said smaller companies may move up as many tiers as they like, provided they accept the costlier dues of the higher tier.

“If you’re a 10-person shop, you qualify for the Entrepreneur level,” Feuerstein said.

“But if you think you’re going to be doing something like a lot of advertising with the Grand Rapids Chamber, you may be interested in moving into the Investor or the Executive level to get a discount on advertising rates.”

A change that could alarm some members is that in the former structure all members for the most part received the same package of benefits and privileges.

But as Feuerstein explained, members will not lose access to any benefits they already have.

She said the roughly two-dozen benefits and privileges available beyond the basic Entrepreneur package are all new services and products.

Plus, the benefits are all customized toward the needs of each tier. Many of the new benefits, she said, would not be useful to a small or start-up company.

However, if members decide that they need online job posting, access to government officials, VIP seating at chamber events, or a reception with the chamber’s board of directors, then they are more than welcome to move up to a higher level.

While the tiered membership rollout began in July, many companies did not receive notice of their tier placement until last month.

“Most of the chambers across the country have gone to a tiered system of membership,” Feuerstein said.

Grand Rapids was one of the last to hold on to the old method of deciphering what dues may be.”    

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