Traditionally, a chamber of commerce was a membership organization that supports the interests of its business members. It is not affiliated with the government, nor is it a charity. The chamber is separate from the Better Business Bureau.
Now that we’ve explained the traditional notion of chamber membership, let’s dive into what it means to be a member of a chamber of commerce today. If you think chambers are outdated, it’s time you take another look.
As a chamber member, you are represented by a powerful organization. Because they are not government-affiliated, chambers weather the political storms, cannot get voted out of office, and always represent the business community. And since healthy communities are good places to work with strong employment opportunities, a chamber helps all members of a community.
There is a long list of benefits to chamber membership. But those benefits are only the surface of what you and your employees receive from joining. If you want to be part of something larger than yourself and your business, striving to improve opportunities in your community, chamber membership is an ideal way to do that.
The Hidden Benefits Of Membership
When you invest in the local Chamber of Commerce, you become a critical part of your community. Here are at least three ways your investment helps improve the community.
Volunteerism and Cause-based Marketing
There are many ways to volunteer in the chamber. From assisting with events to running educational webinars, serving on the board to working with the scholarship program or chamber’s foundation. Your skills or sponsorships will be leveraged in a way that helps you increase your network, your knowledge, and your business exposure.
When you volunteer—and the chamber shares that information with others—your business is aligned with the cause in the eyes of community members. Chambers embrace many causes to improve the quality of life for the communities they serve. Check with your chamber to find out what its goals are or view its strategic plan. You may be surprised by what community efforts it’s championing such as:
- Affordable Housing Solutions
- Workforce Development
- Safe streets
- Tax-reduction legislation
- Mental health initiatives
Many people who question membership have a narrower view of the chamber as a “business only” entity without realizing that every issue in the community affects business. If the community is not seen as a prosperous one, people won’t want to live, work, or open a business there. Being pro-community is pro-business.
You can likely help with the causes that are important to you through chamber work, while also strengthening your business and growing your network with cause-based marketing.
Community Leadership and Responsibility
Chamber members are viewed as reputable and dedicated to creating (or continuing) a flourishing community. When you become a chamber member, you are announcing to the community that your business is here to stay and you’re investing in the success of the area. Through membership, you are choosing to be part of an organization that has championed the cause of business for many years.
At first glance, you may assume the chamber is comprised of a very homogenous mix of business owners. That is no longer the case. In many communities, the chamber is leading diversity initiatives. Chambers understand the importance of representing every aspect of business and ensuring each voice is heard. Representing minority- and women-owned businesses is a responsibility that chambers take seriously because a chamber can affect change. By amplifying the business owners’ voices and convening community leaders, business owners, and employees, chambers are leading diversity initiatives across the country. They’re advocating for legislation, hosting town halls, and providing educational DEI programs.
Chambers often recognize what the business community needs before individual businesses can address it themselves. As a member of the chamber, you are part of helping traditionally underserved populations discover the joy, opportunity, and challenges of business ownership.
Being a chamber member in the 21st century goes beyond the list of benefits you’ll see in the membership brochure. Sure, those items are good investments for your business, and they can save you money and help you grow but the chamber offers much more than that. The chamber is leading the efforts to make your community a better place to live, work, and play for everyone. And membership offers you a highly visible opportunity to be part of that excitement.
Christina Metcalf is a writer/ghostwriter who believes in the power of story. She works with small businesses, chambers of commerce, and business professionals who want to make an impression and grow a loyal customer/member base. She loves road trips, hates exclamation points, and believes the world would be a better place if we all had our own theme song that played when we entered the room. What would yours be?