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Chamber disbands ambassadors group

The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce has disbanded its decades-old ambassadors program in favor of three new committees.

“I’m a strong supporter of the chamber, and I just found it really odd,” says Cindy Miles, director of community and campus relations at Butler Community College.

She says the way it was presented was that the chamber needs more members and doesn’t want to overtax volunteers.

“You would think if recruitment and retention is down, they would just look to get more people out there as ambassadors,” she says.

Mike Nelson of L & L Van Lines, who is one of the longest-serving ambassadors at 19 years, says, “I don’t think it’s any earth-shattering news.”

He says volunteers’ time and needs have changed over the years.

“I’m fine with it because I had been really strapped with time to do all the different things they wanted us to do,” Nelson says. “I was having a real hard time keeping up with all of that.”

Chambers everywhere right now “are looking at ways that they can best provide value to both their volunteers and, most importantly, their customers,” says chamber president and chief executive Bryan Derreberry.

Previously, the ambassadors group was a select group of about 30 individuals (that number fluctuated) who went through a nomination process and were then selected to help with recruitment and retention of members and serve as a something of a welcoming committee.

Each of those facets will now be individual committees.

One group of volunteers will focus solely on welcoming new members “so they can provide that kind of customer attention,” Derreberry says.

Another group will concentrate on getting new members.

“You can’t have enough customers,” Derreberry says.

And another group will be charged with helping to retain members.

“There are distinct skill sets for each one of those,” Derreberry says. Most important, he says, is that members and potential members have “quality relationships.”

Potential committee members will still be screened, but it won’t be the same nomination process, and there can be an unlimited number serving on each committee.

“There are a set of committee member expectations,” Derreberry says. “We love our volunteers, and we’re trying to maximize their opportunities for engagement.”

Nelson thinks it makes sense.

“This basically gives you a choice,” he says, though he adds, “There’s a lot of people there that may not feel that way. It was kind of a unique little group.”

Miles says she’ll still support the chamber, but she says, “It’s very odd to be a laid-off volunteer.”