I’ve been doing a bunch of evaluation of various local Chambers of Commerce recently, and joined the one here in Fort Collins.  I learned some things that I thought I’d pass along to those who don’t have much experience with these organizations.

First, the Chambers aren’t government entities.  They’re funded by the businesses that are their members, and they thrive only when they’re doing things that the businesses value.

As a result, they tend to do different things in each community.  Each Chamber I visited has a slightly different set of activities, priorities, and prices.  The cost seems to be set pretty much by supply-and-demand; basically, they charge what the market will bear.  And each Chamber I visited has a range of membership levels, which include increasing services, and then a’la carte pricing for various other products and services.

For me, the value in joining a Chamber is:

  • Build my visibility in the community, particularly to small businesses (the primary target)
  • Give me opportunities to network with other small business owners, to learn, and to market my services
  • Increase my image as a supporter and participant in the local community
  • Give me opportunities to contribute to other businesses and influence local government decisions

That’s not the only reason people join, of course.  But if you’re selling to the local community, and want to interact with other businesses, you should check it out.  It might be a good investment for you.