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 in towns, cities and other territories voluntarily form these local networks to advocate on behalf of neighboring economic prosperity, promoting business interests and the community at large. Chambers have existed in the US for more than two hundred years.
Chamber missions vary, but they all tend to focus to some degree on five primary goals: Building communities to which residents, visitors and investors are attracted; promoting their communities in all facets; ensure future prosperity with a pro-business environment; representing the unified voice of employers; and reducing transactional friction through designed networks. Chambers have other features in common. Most are led by private-sector employers, self-funded, organized around committees of volunteers and independent. They share a common ambition for sustained prosperity of their community/region, built on thriving employers.
Local businesses are voluntary paying members of a chamber. The membership elects a board of directors or executive council to set policy for, and guide the workings of, the chamber. The board or executive committee then hires a chief executive, plus a modest staff to run the organization.
Chambers of commerce in the US operate almost exclusively as non-profit entities known as 501(c)(6) corporations. Unlike charities, these 501(c)(6) non-profits have the authority under state and federal tax rules to represent their members in public policy debates. Chambers may lobby and take positions on actual or proposed legislation, subject to local, state and federal laws. They may also legally endorse candidates for public office or ballot propositions.