Chamber of Commerce: DEFINED

The term “chamber of commerce” is one of the oldest and most well-recognized brands in the world, but there is significant public misunderstanding of its meaning. There is an old adage in the chamber world: “If you’ve seen one chamber, you’ve seen one.”  The following primer is intended to help clarify the purpose of such an organization.

A chamber of commerce is an organization of businesses seeking to further their collective interests, while advancing their community, region, state, or nation.

Business owners voluntarily form this local organization to advocate on behalf of the entire community for economic prosperity and business interests. Chambers have existed in the United States for more than 200 years and function with five primary goals:

• Building communities to which residents, visitors, and investors are attracted
• Promoting those communities
• Fostering economic prosperity by being pro-business
• Representing the unified voice of the employer community
• Reducing transactional friction through well-functioning networks

The Worcester Regional Chamber works toward these goals through our: 
Recruit  |  Retain  |  Incubate strategy.


Chambers are independent organizations led by private-sector employers, are self-funded, and are designed around boards and committees of volunteers. Chambers are ardent proponents of the free-market system resisting attempts to overly-burden private-sector enterprise and investment. Local businesses are voluntary, paying members of a chamber run by a board of directors, a chief executive, and staff.

In the U.S., Chambers of commerce operate almost exclusively as nonprofit entities known as 501(c)(6) corporations with the ability to represent members in public policy debates and take positions on actual, or proposed, legislation, subject to local, state, and federal laws.

The Worcester Regional Chamber has an educational foundation – a 501(c)(3) corporation – which supports specific, eligible parts of our agenda.


Chambers work closely with government but are not part of the government, nor do we function as the Better Business Bureau. The Chamber is not a charity.


Businesses and other employers pay dues to belong to the Chamber and expect to receive the benefits of membership as long as they continue to invest in the organization. There is no real “average” or “typical” chamber of commerce, each one is separate and unique. Membership can range from a few dozen firms to more than 20,000. There are roughly 4,000 chambers of commerce in the U.S. with at least one full-time staff person and thousands more established as strictly volunteer entities.

The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce is not a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, nor do we subscribe to some of the policy positions and statements issued by the U.S. Chamber. However, we are a member of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, the trade association, in which we share best practices and network with fellow Chambers across the country to bring you better programming, more services, and to stay abreast of the latest innovations.

Companies or organizations are listed as the member, rather than an individual. However, employees of the entity are encouraged to become involved in the work of the Chamber and to participate in the events and programs offered. Under the private, volunteer membership model, companies are not obligated to become chamber members.

We hope that you become a proud member of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. It is the premier organization for businesses in the region.