Chambers of Commerce board of directors are generally business leaders and partners from the community. Board composition and terms are dictated by the organization’s Articles of Incorporation and/or the Bylaws.
The board of directors are instrumental in the creation and implementation of the chamber’s mission and initiatives.
Chamber of Commerce boards vary greatly in size and composition. According to governance metrics from ACCE's FY2018 Chamber Operations Survey Report, (via Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking), the average board size of participating chambers is 29 members. Statistics from BoardSource’s 2017 Leading with Intent report show that the average nonprofit board size has decreased slightly over the past 20 years, with the average 2017 board size at 15 individual members and the median board size at 13 members (not including vacant seats).
Boardsource asserts that "as the decision-making body at the highest level of organizational leadership, boards play a critical role in creating an organization that prioritizes, supports, and invests in diversity, inclusion, and equity." The organization goes on to state "that social sector organizations are better able to do this work effectively and with authenticity when they are led by boards that are intentionally diverse, inclusive, and focused on equity." Chamber board of directors are instrumental in the creation and implementation of the chamber’s mission and initiatives and can be intentionally designed to empower and entrust a diverse representation of the business community with its most important decisions.
With its commitment to representing the diversity of the community as described above, the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce (TX) is updating policy to include a comprehensive diversity strategy for their board nomination process. The chamber holds a rotating ex-officio board seat for minority community leaders and facilitates a DEI Fellowship. The purpose of the DEI Fellowship Program is "to increase opportunities for business leaders of diverse groups to serve on the Board of Directors for the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce and in other volunteer leadership capacities throughout the Irving-Las Colinas community."
The board is 36% female and 26% minority. This represents a 10% increase of minority representation on the board from the prior year and the chamber continues to work on improving representation through deliberate effort.
A recent ACCE DEI Division roundtable included a discussion on tokenism. In it, Dr. Nika White, Senior Advisor for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at Greenville Chamber of Commerce (SC), states that research shows a board should have 3 members of an underrepresented group in order for the influence of that population to be heard. Representation is imperative, however tokenism can serve to isolate board members. As explained in an NEO Law Group blog post:
If the Board is serious about DEI, it must set the tone at the top. When a nonprofit’s Board reflects the diversity of the community it serves, the organization will be better suited to serve that community and attract a diverse staff to implement its programs. Changing the composition of a Board can be very difficult; however, setting a goal through a provision in the Bylaws, whether aspirational or a specific, can tie the organization to said goal. Each organization should determine for itself what its Board diversity target is, how it plans to achieve it, when it plans to achieve it (e.g., 3 years? 5 years?), and by what method (e.g., set numbers, percentages). Admittedly, the following is an over-simplistic example, but if an organization’s goal is to increase representation of a certain group of individuals, they might include a provision in the Bylaws that states that Board must be made up of at least X% of that group within a stated time frame. Among the many challenges to discuss, carefully consider, and thoughtfully address are avoiding tokenism and ensuring any new directors have ample opportunities for meaningful contribution.
Board members are legally responsible for ensuring that a chamber is mission driven, financially responsible, and compliant with laws governing their non-profit status. The majority of boards have an executive committee, which acts on behalf of the board between meetings. ACCE's FY2018 Chamber Operations Survey Report data shows that the average executive committee consists of 9 members. Boards often have other committees as well to manage their core governance functions, such as fundraising and financial management.