What Is a Chamber of Commerce? Definition and Benefits of Joining One

a small building in the style of the Parthenon: what is a chamber of commerce

Owning and running a business is challenging. You’re always looking for more ways to market your business, reach new customers, and solve problems. While you can seek solutions online, joining a chamber of commerce might give you the answers you’re looking for. 

Here’s what chambers of commerce are, the different types, and how they can help your business thrive. 

What is a chamber of commerce?

A chamber of commerce is a network or association of business leaders who work together to foster growth and create business opportunities. These organizations offer a place for members to come together and discuss local, regional, and even international policies and other business issues. They often have a common goal of eliminating obstacles and creating a business-friendly environment. Joining a chamber of commerce can allow a small business to access resources and collective political power they may not be able to gain individually.

Chambers of commerce are usually classified as 501(c)(6) entities under federal tax law, which is a type of nonprofit organization. They are run by a board or executive council, and chamber of commerce executives are typically elected by members. Although chambers of commerce may work with or lobby members of the government, they’re typically not affiliated with any government entity and don’t receive public funding. Instead, chambers operate by collecting membership fees and hosting fundraising events. 

5 chamber of commerce types

  1. City, regional, and local chambers of commerce
  2. State
  3. National and international chambers of commerce
  4. Specific business interests
  5. Compulsory chambers of commerce

Different chambers of commerce cater to different types of businesses. These organizations can vary widely both in scale and focus.A community chamber of commerce may lobby local government officials to implement business-friendly laws, an international chamber of commerce might focus on cross-border trade and import policies. These are some of the options available to business owners and interested employees: 

1. City, regional, and local chambers of commerce

Local chambers of commerce are less expensive to join and tend to focus more on specific issues and geographies. A citywide or regional chamber of commerce focuses on issues affecting the local economy in your area. This is an advantage if you do business locally and your concerns are shared by other nearby businesses. For example, if you’re worried about construction on Main Street in DuBois, Pennsylvania, your local chamber of commerce is more likely to share your concerns than the United States Chamber of Commerce, which includes members from the entire country. 

Local chambers of commerce can be organized by city, region, or neighborhood, depending on the size and density of the area. The city of New York, for example, has multiple chambers of commerce. In addition to a citywide organization, there’s also a Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and several groups for specific neighborhoods within Brooklyn, including the Park Slope and North Brooklyn. In areas where several smaller cities are close together, chambers of commerce are sometimes formed by region, such as the Monmouth County Chamber of Commerce in New Jersey. Regardless of size, these organizations partner with local representatives to voice the concerns of local businesses. 

2. State

Almost every state has a statewide chamber of commerce—Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the only exceptions. State chambers of commerce are available to any businesses operating within that state. These larger organizations work across regional boundaries and may have more influence than smaller chambers. They tend to focus on statewide legislation, such as tax laws, and may also advocate for national legislation that increases business opportunities within their states, such as infrastructure development. 

3. National and international chambers of commerce

National and international chambers of commerce deal with broader issues like importing and international trade. These are best for companies with international vendors or operations in multiple states. The largest of these is the International Chamber of Commerce, which was founded in 1919 and represents more than 45 million companies worldwide. 

4. Specific business interests 

Chambers of commerce can also be formed by a specific industry or group of people. Such chambers are open to businesses in a given sector or business owners from a specific group—which ensures member businesses face similar issues and shared concerns. For example, the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce is open only to small businesses that are at least 51% owned and operated by women. This chamber focuses on creating opportunities for business success as well as supporting policies that benefit women and families. 

5. Compulsory chambers of commerce

Compulsory chambers, also known as public law chambers, are common in the European Union. Under this system, businesses of a certain size or that operate in specific sectors are required to join a chamber of commerce. 

Benefits of joining a chamber of commerce

Chambers of commerce exist to further the interests of the business community. In addition to lobbying for legislation, chambers offer a variety of benefits to member businesses, including: 


Chamber members are often eligible for discounts from other businesses in the same organization. These may include discounts on office supplies, insurance, or travel. Taking advantage of this benefit can help reduce your business’s operating costs. 

Networking opportunities

The chance to expand your professional network is one of the main reasons to join a chamber of commerce. Attending meetings and other chamber events is a great way to connect with local business owners and network like a pro to build business relationships.

Marketing opportunities

Chamber of commerce members or their services may be listed in the chamber’s online directory. This free marketing can drive business referrals. As part of your marketing plan, you may offer a discount for your services to fellow chamber members.

Make your voice heard

As a chamber member, you’ll have the opportunity to bring attention to issues affecting your business. If other members of the business community feel the same way, you may be able to work together to find a solution. 

Educational opportunities

Chambers of commerce publish educational articles or host events that provide opportunities for professional development. These resources can help business owners learn how to navigate and influence local legislation, obtain permits, or build a recognizable brand

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Chamber of commerce FAQ

What does chamber of commerce membership mean for a business?

Joining a chamber of commerce means becoming part of an interest-based or local organization dedicated to promoting collaboration, business growth, and economic development within the business community. Chambers of commerce offer business owners and community members a way to connect with each other, voice their concerns, and lobby government officials and other business organizations when relevant issues arise.

Who can join a chamber of commerce?

Individual chambers of commerce may have specific rules for eligibility, such as operating within a certain area or belonging to a particular group. Check your local chamber’s website to see if you meet the criteria to join.

Are chambers of commerce only for large businesses, or can small businesses benefit too?

Small businesses can benefit from joining a chamber of commerce, too. In addition to networking opportunities and access to product and services discounts, joining a chamber of commerce can offer small business owners a chance to advocate for themselves within their local community, often by voicing concerns about local policies or identifying opportunities to attract additional consumer interest.

Are there fees or membership costs associated with joining a chamber of commerce?

Most chambers of commerce operate and raise funds by collecting membership fees. Membership dues can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per year depending on the size and location of the chamber. These fees can usually be written off as a business expense for tax purposes.

Can individuals who are not business owners be part of a chamber of commerce?

Yes. Some chambers of commerce offer membership for individuals who are interested in community involvement but are not business owners. Individuals may also join as an employee if their employer belongs to a chamber of commerce.