The number of chambers that reported receiving any kind of government funding has seen a slight increase in W.A.C.E.’s recent annual survey on the topic. This year, 61% of respondents reported receiving funds, compared to 58% last year.
“The difference is not significant overall, but considering the fact that we hear more stories about chambers losing funding than receiving new funding, it is a bit surprising,” said W.A.C.E. Vice President Russell Lahodny. “I think the other interesting factor is that chambers reported the funds comprised a larger percent of their annual budget.”
According to survey data from 2017, 72% of chambers reported receiving only 20% or less of their total income from a government agency.
In the 2018 survey, 67% reported receiving 20% or less of their total income from government funding, meaning chambers were reporting a higher percentage of funds.
The chamber’s city or town is still the predominant source of funding with 81% of participants receiving local funds. Thirty-two percent of chambers received funds from their county.
Uses of Funds
Chambers have a wide variety of programs or services for which government funds are used. The most common use is for economic development and retention, at 49%.
Other uses include: city promotion and marketing (38%), tourism promotion (34%), community events (34%), visitor center (33%), and workforce/job training (21%). Another 21% reported using the funds for general operating expenses.
Take It to the Bank
In a new survey question for the 2018 report, only 10% of chambers reported depositing the funds received from government agencies into a separate bank account. Another 4% deposit funds into their chamber’s foundation bank account, while the remaining 86% put the funds in the general checking account.
“While internal bookkeeping might track the government funds and how they are being spent, there are more people scrutinizing the actions of organizations like the local chamber, especially ones that engage in advocacy and candidate endorsements,” Lahodny said. “One of the easiest ways to prove that taxpayer dollars are not being used for chamber purposes, aside from the ones included in its contract, is to have a separate bank account with an annual audit.”
The survey also included a new question asking whether the government funds the chamber received were included in the chamber’s annual audit.
Only 5% of chambers claimed to not include the funds in their annual audit.
Chambers Without Funding
Of the chambers that reported not receiving funds from a government agency, 43% said the reason for not receiving funds is that the chamber has never asked for or sought funding.
The second most common response was the chamber wanted political freedom to advocate for local businesses without threats of the agency canceling the contract. Another 30% said they want to avoid the perception of answering to government officials.
The findings of the latest Government Funding survey are available in the Annual Survey section of the Members Only page at waceonline.com.