A chamber of commerce is a 501c6 nonprofit organization made up of individual business owners, entrepreneurs, and individuals interested in economic improvement. The collective’s purpose is to better the economic landscape of all businesses through networking, lobbying, community engagement, and other outreach events. Chambers of commerce do not use any government funding but members are connected with government grants or funding as a membership perk.
But joining your local chamber of commerce comes at a price—literally. It’ll probably cost a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars to buy a membership. So is it worth it? Maybe. Here’s a guide to help you decide.
5 Benefits of Joining a Chamber of Commerce
Is it worth joining a local chamber of commerce? The answer all depends. Large businesses with many employees will often have to pay more in membership fees to take advantage of all the benefits provided. Owners of these large businesses also may not have the time to truly take part in all the events, programs, and activities that the chamber puts on for members.
However, small and newer businesses would greatly benefit from the resources and networking that local chambers of commerce provide. Let’s go through a few benefits to help you decide.
- Networking and Community: Since a chamber of commerce is a collection of other businesses in a given region or industry, one of the biggest benefits of joining is the ability to grow your network and community. Local chambers often organize weekly or monthly networking events for the members to meet each other and build a community of supportive business owners.
- Education: If you’re the type of business owner who likes to learn, your local chamber of commerce is a great resource for all things business education. For example, the ATL Airport Chamber in Atlanta, Georgia offers a banking boot camp for business owners to learn how to build relationships with financial institutions. Often, these educational opportunities provided by your local chamber of commerce are led by other professionals, business leaders, and spokespeople.
- Government Advocacy: Besides providing networking opportunities, a chamber of commerce is focused on pushing for better regulations, laws, policies, and taxes for businesses. You can actively participate in lobbying events, but you don’t have to. The chamber executives, board, and committees represent the members’ wants and interests.
- Exposure and Credibility: As a member of your local chamber of commerce, your business is listed in a public searchable directory. In some cases, you can even have your business’s logo on your chamber’s website. In cities like Spokane, Washington, members who open a new business location are given ribbon-cutting ceremonies, driving traffic and attention to the company. Being a part of a local chamber of commerce offers credibility to your business because it is registered with an accredited and trustworthy organization.
- Financial Assistance: Economic hardship is the last thing any business wants to face, but as a member of a local chamber of commerce, you have access to business grants and loans for small and large companies. Not only can you apply for special grants, loans, or sponsorship, some even offer member discounts to other businesses within the organization on products and services, like office supplies, business insurance, and software.
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How to Join a Chamber of Commerce
To join your local chamber of commerce, you’ll need to find it first. If you’re a US company, you can use the US Chamber of Commerce’s national directory to locate your nearest chamber. Follow the application process and pay any associated fees to become a member.
For your chamber of commerce membership application, you’ll need to provide:
- your name
- business name
- business information, like industry and number of employees
- contact information
Some chambers even allow you to add employees or business partners to your membership who can take part in the benefits as well.
How much does it cost to join a Chamber of Commerce?
It depends on multiple factors like:
- number of employees
For example, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce charges $25 for applying but charges additional fees based on the number of employees. These fees range from $540 to $5,540. Some chambers even offer higher tiers of membership at expensive prices that offer more benefits. You’ll need to check with the chamber of commerce you are interested in joining.
Who can join a Chamber of Commerce?
Some chambers of commerce have specific membership eligibility requirements, but in most cases, any individual is allowed to join as long as they pay the membership fee(s). Most chambers of commerce are not business entity-specific, allowing for LLCs, corporations, and even sole proprietors to join.