Great question. First of all, congratulations for considering joining your local Chamber of Commerce. That is a great business move for several different reasons. For the purposes of this article, however, let’s focus on your question. Chances are you are doing business in an area where there are a few or even several different Chambers to choose from. If you are doing business in the greater Des Moines area specifically, you may appreciate why I wrote this post even more. There are over a dozen Chamber’s of Commerce within 30 minutes of Downtown Des Moines. Keep in mind that almost all these Chambers choose to affiliate with the Greater Des Moines Partnership which means your local Chamber membership gives you access to all of their resources and events as well.
Here are a few factors to consider as you choose which Chamber to join.
- Start local – Odds are there is a Chamber of Commerce that represents your city, part of the city, or geographical region. That is the best place to start because they are the ones who are committed to keeping the business climate positive in your area. They are building relationships with your elected officials, city staff, economic development leadership, business leaders, and advocating for necessary support and resources. They know the area, have the connections, and are committed to the success of the businesses and organizations in your area.
- What do you need? – You may also choose a Chamber that offers some programs and resources that are important to you and your business. While most Chambers offer a similar menu of programs, it’s good to know what tops your list and what they offer more strongly. If your local chamber doesn’t offer something you’re looking for, the board of directors and staff would appreciate knowing what is important to you. The more members, investors, and participation any Chamber of Commerce has, the stronger and more valuable it will be.
- Where are your customers? – Your home office may be in one part of town, but your assigned sales territory and customers may be miles away. In that case, joining the Chamber in that sales area may be of more value to you. It will give you more local visibility in the area where you want to grow, and it will let your customers know that you are investing in their community.
- Consider more than one chamber – If you are doing business in a large metropolitan region, you may need to join a few Chambers. I say this as one who managed a small business where we were a member of two local chambers. The connections I made and resources I had available were invaluable from both chambers. Later in my career, I did fundraising for a non-profit where we were active in 3 chambers, all key cities in the county that we served. The relationships we built with the business community and the awareness created of our organization was invaluable.
My closing advice: start with #1 and strongly consider #4. Whatever you decide, once you join a Chamber of Commerce, introduce yourself to the executive director or board president and ask them how you can make the most of your membership.