What is a Chamber of Commerce?
Chamber of Commerce Overview
A chamber of commerce is a voluntary partnership of businesses and professionals working together to build a healthy economy and improve the quality of life in a community. It is a membership organization that advocates on behalf of local businesses and is backed by a board that is comprised of business people from the local community. The chamber is a resource, advocate, and connector for business.
As a chamber works to accomplish these goals, it must champion many different functions: economic developer and planner, tourist information center, business spokesperson, economic counselor and teacher, government relations specialist, human resources adviser, and public relations practitioner.
Contrary to what some people believe, the chamber of commerce is not a government entity; nor are they some super, secret business fraternity, nor a country club for business people.
Chamber members are businesses, organizations, and individuals concerned with the socioeconomic climate of a community. These groups have joined together because they stand a better chance of getting things done when speaking with a collective voice. Chamber members can include the small hardware store on the corner, the mom-and-pop diner, the established bank downtown, franchise and major retailers, and the local baseball team. There are no limits or restrictions on the number or kind of members that choose to get involved in a chamber of commerce.
A chamber of commerce is run by its members. They elect a board of directors who determines policies and sets goals. The chief elected officer presides over all board meetings. A chamber’s day-to-day operations are handled by the President/CEO who is hired by the Board of Directors. The Chamber President is responsible for hiring the staff to carry out day-to-day duties. Committees can include economic development, education, government relations, human resources, public affairs, and tourism. Committee members are selected from the general membership and asked to volunteer for these duties.
The chamber keeps the broad objectives in mind as it works to improve a community’s economy and quality of life:
- Help businesses prosper and grow.
- Increase job opportunities.
- Encourage an orderly expansion and development of all segments of the community.
- Contribute to the overall economic stability of the community.
- Promote the nation’s private enterprise system of competitive marketing.
A Word About Chamber Membership and Advocacy
Before we get into why you should have a chamber membership for your business, it’s important to know that the chambers of commerce on a local, state, and national level are advocating for your business (and other businesses in their area) even if you never join the chamber.
Chambers have a legislative agenda that reflects the needs of businesses in their area. This advocacy is happening on your behalf at no cost to you. But…if you want your specific concerns and voice to be heard, being a member is a good way to do this. If you aren’t a member, the chamber is still a tireless advocate for all business, including non-members.
Besides being an advocate for business, why should you join the chamber and does it make sense for your business? You can decide after understanding some of the benefits of joining the chamber.
Is Chamber Membership Right for My Business?
Have you wondered if chamber membership is right for your business? Below are twenty reasons to consider it. However, before you begin reading over all the many benefits of joining the chamber, consider the main struggle you encounter in your business.
What is it that troubles you most?
Where are you in the lifecycle of your business (i.e., just starting out, looking to take that next growth leap, or considering a sale of your business.) Chambers have programs and solutions for all stages of business.
But knowing what you’re struggling with and feeling confident enough to share it, will help a chamber membership person suggest solutions that fit you and your business best.
Plus, it’s important to note that most of the reasons and benefits to chamber membership listed below are available to your employees as well. This perk alone can make chamber membership worth it. For instance, if you want to get more involved in social media and your person who will be handling it doesn’t know how to do it, you have two options for training:
- place the cost on your employee to learn or
- pay for the training yourself
A more cost-effective solution is to check with your chamber of commerce to find out if they have a seminar or lunch and learn on the subject.
That’s a pretty nifty perk but what else makes chamber membership a great value?
20 Reasons to Join the Chamber
While specific benefits vary by chamber of commerce, with chamber membership you:
- Are a part of a like-minded group dedicated to helping business.
- Can become a mentor to a new business.
- Seek assistance or mentorship from established business people.
- Be part of a committee or serve as an ambassador or board member.
- Advise the chamber of the needs of your particular industry.
- Can shape the future of education in your area by working with the leaders in business, government, and education.
- Are part of a group that helps its members in ways you might not think of like providing office space should something happen to your physical location.
- Can host a meeting at the chamber office. This is a good benefit for new businesses and entrepreneurs who work from their homes but need an office or meeting space.
- Are eligible for member-to-member discounts.
- Will be made aware of legislative issues facing your business. There’s a lot that goes on in the local, state, and federal levels, too much for the average business owner to track on their own. The chamber will help keep you informed about issues that could affect you like taxation, legalization, and permitting issues.
- Can be informed about changing trends in marketing and social media. These areas and practices seem to change on nearly a daily basis.
- Maybe a part of free “How To’s” and other learning session topics to help your business
- Might be able to lead a session in your area of expertise to better position yourself as an industry expert and put you in contact with the types of people who need your business or service.
- Can be a part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Chambers may also help with other special business milestones like anniversaries and expansions.
- Can be part of shop local campaigns.
- Maybe on the receiving end of some of the chamber’s web traffic as an online banner sponsor or being listed on their site in some capacity.
- Will be part of the chamber directory. We have online and printed directories that may help your business get more traffic and customers.
- Will benefit from the chamber being a resource for the community. If you’d like help connecting to a certain part or person within the community, the chamber may just be able to help.
- Access to online resources.
- Will likely receive referrals from the chamber. You’d be surprised how many people contact the chamber for opinions on local businesses. You have local citizens and travelers who see the chamber as a reliable source for information.
Speaking of which…
How Your Business Can Benefit from Chamber of Commerce Membership
Chamber benefits vary by chamber, but one thing that is true of nearly every chamber is its positive influence on business reputation.
Many people are unclear as to what exactly it is the chamber does.
Some even confuse them with the Better Business Bureau.
And in a lot of ways, they are similar. They are both outstanding organizations concerned with business.
Many chambers have been in their communities for a while. During that time, they’ve likely developed an impressive reputation for being the voice of business. This reputation has had an impressive effect on member businesses.
Your business can benefit from the chamber’s stellar reputation. In a study done by the Shapiro Group and Market Street Services, they found that when someone knows a small business is a member of its local chamber of commerce, they were “44 percent more likely to think favorably of it and 63 percent more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future.”
But that’s not all they found.
59% of consumers polled believed being active in your chamber is an effective business strategy. For companies that can show they are active in the chamber, 12% of consumers are more likely to think the business’ products or services stack up better than their non-member competition.
Some industries will also be happy to know that chamber membership plays an even bigger role in whether someone will buy from them. For instance, in the insurance industry perspective buyers were 43% more likely to buy from a chamber member. Another example of how chamber membership affects purchasing is seen in restaurant franchises. Potential customers reported they were 40% more likely to dine at a franchise if they knew it belonged to the chamber of commerce.
Lesser-Known Chamber Benefits
In addition to the benefits mentioned earlier and the chamber’s impressive reputation and the effect that has on potential customers for your business, our chambers offers additional benefits that you may not have considered. check with us to find out what solutions it provides for local businesses.
These may include:
- Health insurance discounts
- Notary services
- Certificate of Origins
- Advertising and sponsorship opportunities for greater exposure among a business-oriented crowd
- Access to a private, online business community
- Professional headshots conducted periodically
- Business coaching
- Drug’s Don’t Work Program
- Worker’s Compensation Discount
- Life Insurance Discounts
The Only Reason That Matters in Chamber of Commerce Membership
Even though the chamber of commerce offers countless benefits to members, there’s no reason to read a list of benefits in order to make a decision. It all comes down to a few questions.
- Do you want to be a part of something larger than yourself in your community?
- Would you like more exposure?
- Do you need help in some area of your business?
- If you answered “yes” to those questions, the chamber may be able to help.
If you have a business need, it’s likely the chamber can help you in some way. They’ll either be able to provide direct solutions or connect you with others who can help you solve your business challenges.