The Relevance of Chamber's of Commerce

Are Chamber’s of Commerce relevant? Are some more relevant than others?

Are all your members important? Are some more important than others?

The answer is yes to both, some chambers are more relevant than others and some members are more important than other.

The key is to fine what your chamber stands for and focus on executing that mission.

I’m reminded of the Hedgehog Theory – by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great.”

As you may know, the theory uses three circles to make his point. Using these three circles, indentify what you have passion for, what you are or could be the best at, and what do you make money on. Where those three circles come together is where you should focus your energies.

Just a quick look at the numbers of chambers across the country are mind boggling. Differentiating your chamber from the competition is critical to your continued growth and success.

What makes us relevant? Based on a Winston Study in 2001, the following were identified by members of chambers across the country.

  • Networking opportunities
  • Economic/community development
  • Issue advocacy/lobbying
  • Tourism/Community promotion
  • Leadership training
  • We help our members grow their business

It should be noted that what is relevant for one chamber could be completely different for another. That again lies the real question. What do we want to be known for? What is going to make us relevant? If you don’t know, it’s time for you to conduct a board retreat and find out.

What’s Driving Change in Membership?

There are internal and external forces that are forcing chambers to change the way they do business. The following are just an example of the issues facing chamber execs each year, and as you can see, many are out of our control.


  • Budget cuts
  • Staff cuts
  • Doing more with less (doing away with or cutting back on services – 24 hours just became a 48 hour turnaround time – is that acceptable)


  • Economy (your members have fewer dollars)
  • Internet (free or pay as you go)
  • Competition (bookstores, state & regional chambers, local chambers, our members)

It’s important to revisit your value prop on a regular basis. You know the equation, Benefits – costs = value. The challenge is to communicate that value effectively to your membership, non-members and community alike.

I subscribe to the philosophy that all businesses in your community are either members of the chamber or are going to be members of the chamber.