Graduate School of Business


Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


John R. Kuhn


Chambers of Commerce, member engagement, member retention, leadership


Business | Leadership Studies


Many nonprofit membership-based associations experience poor levels of engagement which threatens member retention and their long-term survival. While leaders recognize that engaging members is critical to member retention, many association leaders struggle with identifying the best approaches for engaging members. This qualitative multiple case study focuses on member engagement and retention in two high-performing chambers of commerce with above-average member retention rates in Northeast Ohio. The study discovers effective strategies to engage chamber of commerce members, develops a leadership model for member engagement, and identifies best practices that chamber of commerce leaders should use to successfully engage members. Participants in the study included chamber leaders (executive directors, staff members, board members, and committee chairs) and engaged members. Using interviews, documentation, archival records, and direct observations, the researcher developed a leadership model comprised of six high-level leadership strategies that positively impact member engagement and, ultimately, member retention. The six high-level leadership strategies include building strong, trusting relationships; providing support; offering valuable benefits that align with members’ needs and motivations; prioritizing strategic planning; building a welcoming and community-based culture; and effectively communicating. The researcher also developed a best practices guide for member engagement, which includes the six high-level leadership strategies and numerous accompanying sub-strategies designed to positively impact member engagement and retention.