When you run a small business, you can use all the support you can get. Small business associations provide the resources and networking you need to thrive in your market. With the help of these organizations, you can build a community with businesses like yours so you can move forward confidently.
Join the millions of creators publishing with WordPress.com
Build your website—and your audience—with the same tool that powers almost half the web and is delivered on lightning-fast, seriously secure, hassle-free hosting. WordPress.com defines powerhouse hosting.
Plus, you get a free domain for one year on any paid plan.
Joining small-business associations are great ways to meet, learn from, and network with your fellow local business owners.
You’re probably familiar with organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, which is an advocacy group that helps local business owners like yourself, but there are other small business associations you might want to join as well.
Why should you join and participate in business associations? As a small-business owner, you probably wear a lot of hats, work long hours, and have countless tough decisions to make every day of the week, as do other small business owners. Meeting friends and mentors who know exactly what you’re going through can make differences in both your professional and personal lives. Friends and mentors can also help you make smart business decisions.
Those tough tax, payroll, hiring, or expansion decisions you’re trying to navigate? Connections made through a business association could probably help you find the solution, saving you time and money in the process.
Participating in small-business associations can also generate additional leads and sales. Hopefully, you’ll have opportunities to mentor and guide other small business owners as well, making lifelong friends in the process. Joining small business associations can be a lifesaver, providing you with social support, mentorship opportunities, and growth. So, how do you get started?
In this blog post, you’ll learn more about the benefits of small business associations and get some examples of popular ones in the United States. I’ll also offer some tips for getting the most out of your membership.
In this post:
- Join the millions of creators publishing with WordPress.com
- GET STARTED
- Benefits of joining small business associations
- 10 small business associations to consider joining
- 1. U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- 2. National Small Business Association (NSBA)
- 3. SCORE
- 4. Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
- 5. Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
- 6. Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
- 7. The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB)
- 8. Business Network International (BNI)
- 9. Trade Associations
- 10. Your Local or Industry-Specific Association
- Tips for getting the most out of your small business association membership
- Build your community for a better business
Benefits of joining small business associations
Why should you make the effort to join a small business association? These organizations deliver benefits like these to your business:
- Networking opportunities: Small business associations often host networking events for their members that help business owners build connections.
- Access to resources and support: If you need funding or connections to community resources, small business associations offer access to seed money and connections.
- Educational and training opportunities: Workshops, courses, and mentorship programs are popular initiatives in small business associations.
- Advocacy and representation: Some small business associations take on a political role where they advocate for policies that help small businesses thrive. You can join these groups to make your opinion heard.
- Enhanced credibility and reputation: Sharing your membership with a relevant association can build your reputation and credibility with customers and other businesses.
10 small business associations to consider joining
Every business is a little different, so the best business associations to join will vary based on your personal preferences. Also, just as paying for a gym membership doesn’t guarantee you’ll get in shape unless you actually exercise, simply joining a business association doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome unless you invest the time and effort into making it worthwhile. In addition to the well-known Chamber of Commerce, there are also Chamber divisions that might be especially helpful for people of various backgrounds and nationalities, such as the Minority Chamber of Commerce, Japanese Chamber of Commerce, or German Chamber of Commerce. However, depending on who you are and what your business does, you might find it more valuable to participate in small business associations listed below.
Here are some of the most prominent options for small business associations you can join to grow your business:
1. U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The United States Chamber of Commerce is one of the biggest and most well-known business associations in the country. It has a national organization and local chapters.
Two of the most notable benefits of joining the Chamber of Commerce are its membership seal and inclusion in a directory. National and local membership gives you clearance to share your status as a member through the Chamber’s seal. Your local Chamber may also add you to a directory of businesses for your town.
Chamber of Commerce members can also benefit from educational events related to business skills and networking opportunities.
2. National Small Business Association (NSBA)
The National Small Business Association (NSBA) is a nonpartisan organization focused on federal lobbying for policies that help small businesses. It bases its advocacy decisions on data and research centered on small businesses rather than party lines.
Due to NSBA’s political focus, your membership with it will mainly provide you with political benefits. You’ll get opportunities to share your opinion about policies that affect your business and connect with like-minded business owners. As a bonus, you’ll also receive discounts from NSBA partners like Nationwide Insurance and Dell.
SCORE offers educational resources to small businesses at every stage of development.
Its most prominent program is its mentoring system. You can request free business mentoring or become a mentor yourself at one of SCORE’s local branches.
But, if you don’t have a SCORE office near you, you still have plenty of resources to take advantage of. SCORE runs regular online webinars, events, and courses you can watch from anywhere. It also has resources and templates anyone can download from its website.
4. Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) are local organizations coordinated by the Small Business Administration that provide training and counseling to small businesses.
The exact benefits you’ll get from SBDC will depend on your local branch. Some examples of services that SBDC offices provide include:
- Advice based on research using proprietary resources
- Assistance with contracting certifications with the government
- Disaster recovery
- Business funding
- Connections to lenders and partner organizations
5. Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) aims to help women-owned businesses grow and thrive. If women own and run more than 51% of your business, you can become WEBENC certified and enjoy member benefits.
WEBENC certification gives you access to a community with other female business owners and their colleagues. You can also use your certification to signify your status as a women-owned business on your marketing materials. As a WEBENC member, you’ll also have a supplier diversity program and networking events available to help your business grow.
6. Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is a federal agency dedicated to helping minority-owned businesses grow and become more competitive. It offers services through its local chapters across the United States.
Your MBDA branch’s services will depend on their specific resources and goals. It can offer opportunities like:
- Connections to local resources
- Educational opportunities
- Access to contracts and business capital
- Workshops and events
- Mentorship opportunities
7. The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB)
The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is “America’s leading small business association,” with a network of 325,000 entrepreneurs across numerous local chapters. In addition to advocacy and networking, NFIB members receive discounts on a wide-range of products and services.
8. Business Network International (BNI)
The Business Network International (BNI) is the “world’s leading referral program.” One unique feature of BNI is that only one participant from each professional industry is allowed to join a local group at a time. So, if you’re the accountant in your local BNI group, no other accountants can join.
9. Trade Associations
Joining a trade association can be invaluable for certain businesses (here’s a list of trade associations to browse). For example, you’re a female broadcast journalist who wants to connect with and learn from local, regional, and national experts in your field who know what it’s like to be in your shoes. The Association for Women in Communications (AWC) might be the perfect organization for you to join.
10. Your Local or Industry-Specific Association
Here’s the most meaningful option on this list — your local or industry small business association. These organizations will give you advice and resources specific to your region or industry that you might not get from larger organizations. Plus, their smaller sizes and niches lend themselves to closer connections with other business owners.
But, since they don’t have as big of a reputation as national organizations, they can be a little trickier to find. You’ll need to do some legwork to see what business associations you have in your area and industry. Try these strategies:
- Ask your network: Reach out to other small business owners you trust to see if they know of any organizations you can join. They might already be members themselves, giving you someone you already know in the association.
- Search on LinkedIn: Enter terms related to your industry or location plus a word like “association,” “organization,” or “alliance” in LinkedIn’s search bar to find pages and groups for relevant associations. Here, you might also find online LinkedIn groups that can serve as associations in their own right.
- Run an online search: A good old-fashioned internet search can get you a long way, too. Search for terms like “small business association near me” to find local results.
Bonus: While not technically an association, you might be blown away by the local business groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Type your town name into the search bar along with “business” and see what pops up. Join the relevant, local online groups and discussions, which often hold in-person meetings as well.
Tips for getting the most out of your small business association membership
Once you join the organization of your choice, use the resources you have at hand to their fullest to get the most out of your membership. As a member, remember to:
- Stay active: Keep attending events and staying in touch with your contacts at your small business association. You’ll become one of the first people to come to mind when opportunities come up.
- Explore your resources: Get to know the resources your organization has to offer. If you find any your business could benefit from, don’t be afraid to use them.
- Network with other members: In addition to attending networking events, network with other members of your association by reaching out in other situations. Introduce yourself at any type of member event and nurture your relationships.
- Share your expertise: Look for ways to contribute your knowledge to your association by guesting at a workshop or becoming a mentor. These actions build your authority as a business leader in your community.
- Publicize your membership: If your association offers one, share your seal of membership on your website and other marketing materials. It’ll demonstrate your business’s commitment to bettering itself to customers.
Build your community for a better business
Small business associations offer critical resources and opportunities to connect with other entrepreneurs. When it feels like it’s just your business versus the world, these organizations offer much-needed support. Even if you aren’t sure if you can commit the time to a full membership, ask an organization you’re interested in if they have any events for non-members. Any participation will help you grow your business and network with like-minded folks.
Want more tips? Get new post notifications emailed to you.