Chambers set sail for opportunities abroad
International trips serve as fundraisers

By Chris Bennett -Special to The Freeman

July 24, 2017

Nancy Waters, president of the Pewaukee Chamber of Commerce, left, and Lynn Minturn, president of the Hartland Chamber of Commerce, at a silk rug factory on a recent trip organized by the chambers.
Submitted photo

PEWAUKEE - Most think of their local chamber of commerce and consider those well-intentioned individuals in the community who show up at ribbon-cuttings, and occasionally spearhead civic improvement projects.

One does not usually associate the local chamber of commerce with trips to the Great Wall of China, or Iceland or Ireland, or Europe’s Danube River.

Two chambers of commerce in Lake Country are becoming as well-known for trips as they are for promoting businesses and encouraging economic development.

In recent years, the chambers of commerce in both Hartland and Pewaukee have sponsored trips overseas as a means of raising money.

“It has really been a wonderful benefit to the community,” said Nancy Waters, president of the Pewaukee Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a lot of work. Lynn and I built this program from scratch.”

Lynn Minturn is president of the Hartland Chamber of Commerce. Minturn said chambers of commerce sponsoring overseas travel as part of their business model is a recent development.

“In the northern part of the state, there are a lot of chambers that do trips,” Minturn said. “We looked at it from a broader perspective, because it’s done as a fundraiser for the chamber.”

Minturn and Waters traveled to China on a trip through the City of Waukesha Chamber of Commerce. The meeting of the minds led the two to start planning.

The Pewaukee and Hartland chambers of commerce have partnered on organizing international trips as fundraisers. Seen here is a Shanghai by night boat tour from a past trip.
Submitted photo

The first international trip between the two chambers took place in 2014. The chambers traveled to China with three dozen people. The two chambers went to China again in 2015 and doubled the participation.

“The word of mouth was spread that we were doing these trips,” Minturn said. “They were at a price point that was very comfortable for people.”

The two chambers traveled to Ireland in 2016 and took 90 people.  Minturn said a group that traveled to Iceland this past spring topped-out at 54 people, but only because of the country’s tourism regulations.

A 2018 trip along the Danube River is being planned, along with other destinations.

Derek d'Agrella visits a cloisonne factory in China as part of a trip with the Pewaukee and Hartland chambers of commerce.
Submitted photo

Iceland also offered its own unique share of contingency planning. The island nation is home to an active volcano.

“We had to have an emergency evacuation plan, should it become more active,” Minturn said. “Not that it was unstable - it was a possibility. It was something you had to talk about and plan for.”

The group visited a working, ancient sheep farm while in Ireland, one that dated to the 12th century. The attraction was a hit with those on the trip.

“Being that we were from the Lake Country area, a lot of people grew up in that environment, or in open spaces, if you will,” Minturn said.

Waters said the trips are so popular that friends are pairing together and going on the trips, and that those who traveled together previously express a desire to travel together again.

“People have joined friends on these trips and traveled together on the next trip, or get guests and family to come,” Waters said. “The word has spread from trip to trip.”

Waters said she and Minturn act as the boots on the ground for each trip, starting with recruiting travelers through arrangements in the country of destination.

“We do publicity meetings, take questions and money, and organize everything,” Waters said. “We’re really the front lines, in terms of getting the groups together.”

The chambers make money by charging a certain amount per head on each trip, Minturn said. The trips are effective fundraisers because they require few volunteers and limited overhead.

“Half of our operating budget comes from membership fees,” Minturn said. “We are constantly having to fundraise to offer programs for our members. This partnership is easier than some of the others.”