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Chamber introduces Gift Card Give Back program to help local small businesses

Kelsey Doom introduced the Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce’s Gift Card Give Back program at Tuesday’s Brookings City Council meeting. It will be funded in part with city money previously designated for Downtown at Sundown.

Downtown at Sundown is a weekly summer event that features live bands, children’s activities, food and merchandise vendors. It started in 2015 and has grown every year. 

The city has funded Downtown at Sundown with money from the 3B tax, City Manager Paul Briseno said. Since Downtown at Sundown was canceled this summer in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19, the $23,294 earmarked for the event was not used. 

The Chamber requested that money be reallocated to a small business Gift Card Give Back program, Briseno said.

Doom, Chamber president and CEO, explained the Gift Card Give Back program was intended to help the small businesses through the hard times brought on by COVID-19.

“A few weeks ago, I came and presented data from our surveys that said 25% of businesses would be closed within six months if conditions were to remain the same,” Doom said, adding a follow-up survey put the number at 20%. “But still, it’s too high.”

The Chamber’s initial goal was to raise $50,000 of a pool of matching funds “that the public will then go into an online shop and purchase gift certificates to participating businesses who sign a form and agree to abide by a certain set of terms and conditions,” Doom said.

“When they purchase that gift card, it will be doubled using that matching fund pool,” Doom said.

The program will run for as long as the pool of money lasts, she added.

When it’s exhausted, the matching portion of the program will be finished, Doom said.

“We’re very excited to say that we surpassed our $50,000 goal within a week and a half, which I think really shows how much support there is out there for this and the need, the true need,” Doom said.

She said she asked the city what help they could get, and the Downtown at Sundown money was available.

Doom spoke with the other 3B entities and the group decided that, instead of holding the money for the next season in 2021, to use it now for the businesses. She was requesting formal approval from the council.

Councilor Holly Tilton Byrne commended the Chamber for putting the program together.

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic to see this amount of support for our local businesses,” she said. “Holiday season is right around the corner, so I think this is great timing.”

Councilor Patty Bacon echoed Tilton Byrne.

“This is so creative. It was money we had planned to spend anyway, and that it will help our downtown businesses is just exciting. I can’t wait to get my card,” Bacon said. “Thank you for your creative problem solving.”

Tilton Byrne commented that since the Chamber raised the $50,000 quickly, were there any plans to replicate the program or increase the match amount in the future?

“The goal is to double our initial goal,” Doom said, adding the Chamber will put out a video as “a step in the next direction of reconciliation between businesses and the city, to challenge the community using $10,000 of this money to say we’ll match everything that the community gives, up to $10,000, and that $10,000 will come from this $23,000. With that, we’ll hit our $100,000 goal,” Doom said.

“If the need persists beyond the holidays of 2020, we can certainly try it again,” she said. “Hopefully, we won’t need it.”

If someone wants to donate to that matching fund, what’s the best way, Tilton Byrne asked.

Contact her at kelsey@brookingschamber.org, Doom said, adding they will take cash, check, Pay Pal, “whatever you want to throw our way.”

All of their donors are listed on the Chamber’s website, and the amounts vary widely, she added. 

“We had Medary Acres give us a call the other day, and they’re donating $10,000,” Doom said. “It’s been phenomenal; it’s just been the most fun I’ve had in this job since moving here, for sure.”

Tilton Byrne urged the public to view the list and support the program. 

“You see these businesses on the sponsorship list, on people that are giving, and we have a pretty awesome small business community, that these businesses are constantly giving and now it’s our turn to give back,” Tilton Byrne said. “The money is staying here, and this is such a tribute to that.” 

“Thank you very much for doing this,” Councilor Ope Niemeyer said. “This is innovation at its finest, as far as I’m concerned, trying to help out our fellow businesses in town. I just love the whole idea. Hopefully, it just turns into a tsunami of help for businesses that we truly want to keep.”

The council unanimously approved budgeting the third penny sales tax funds for the Gift Card Give Back program.

About the program

The Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce will build an online shop where gift certificates to participating local businesses will be sold, according to a Chamber press release. 

The Gift Card Give Back program is open to all locally owned, for-profit small businesses located in the Brookings area that are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses may join the program by completing the participation agreement form at brookingschamber.org/givebackform and by sending to info@brookingschamber.org before 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13. A membership to the Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce is required, the release says. 

The online store will go live Thursday, Nov. 19. Shoppers may visit brookingschamber.org/store to purchase gift certificates. 

The program will match each purchase, dollar for dollar, for as long as the matching fund lasts. That means that for each $20 unit purchased, the customer receives a $40 gift certificate to be redeemed when the time is right, and the business receives that $40 now, when cashflow is most crucial, according to the release.

“This pandemic has affected us all, but we’re finding the impacts are significantly greater in our small business community. This program is designed to double any investment made to the matching fund using consumers’ purchases of gift certificates. It’s really a win-win,” Doom said in a press release

The shopping experience will be broken into two phases. Phase 1 will include a $500 purchase limitation per household; in addition, no more than five gift certificates to a single business may be purchased. If there are matching funds left after Dec. 1, Phase 2 will begin. Phase 2 will simply remove the purchase limitation per household/business. Businesses who sign up are required to agree to a set of terms and conditions for participation. Certificates will expire Dec. 31, 2021. 

For more information, contact the Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce at 692-8922 or email info@brookingschamber.org.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at jgreiner@brookingsregister.com.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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