Isn’t it fun to write a big check to a terrific organization?  I just had the pleasure of sending a $1,000 donation to Hephzibah, courtesy of the independent retail businesses in the Chamber.

Small business is hard, and mom-and-pop boutiques have razor-thin margins.  While many of their owners give personally to charity and generously provide silent auction gifts to local causes, writing a check to a nonprofit does not come easy.  Despite popular misconception, small business is not a cash-minting enterprise, with plenty of money to go around.

Scale is a beautiful thing, however.  When businesses come together, great things can happen.  

That check to Hephzibah?  We sold one hundred exclusive, pre-sale tickets to our February Retail Warehouse Sale, with proceeds going to charity.  The retailers had an existing relationship with Hephzibah, and negotiated the honor of being the beneficiary for Hephzibah’s help marketing the event to their supporters. A win-win, as word of the event spread on social media, tickets sold out, and Hephzibah received $1,000.

That’s the power of the Chamber and its ability to connect nonprofits to business in a scalable, strategic way.

We had similar good fortune when our Young Professionals took a tour of the pickle-making facility at Opportunity Knocks.  What started out as an informative, out-of-the-box social event turned into business people connecting to a nonprofit, identifying a need and filling it.  The OK Warriors needed new commercial kitchen equipment, leading to a partnership between the Chamber, Opportunity Knocks and the fabulous Hambingo Fundraising night at Oak Park Brewing.  Lots of fun, great networking and enough money raised to purchase the equipment.

Partnerships aren’t always about raising money.  The Chamber depends on local organizations to provide meeting space for our events.  Attendees learn about the organization just by visiting it. We are grateful to Wonder Works Children’s Museum, which is hosting our after-hours networking event in April.  

The West Cook YMCA is doubling down, donating use of its spacious facility to host our April 29 Community Health and Wellness Fair.  These creative partnerships help both the businesses and the nonprofits – which is a good thing for the community.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...