Number of Chambers Receiving Funding Increases to Highest Level Since 2014

The recent W.A.C.E. Government Funding Annual Survey showed that the percentage of chambers receiving funding from a government entity increased to 61% in 2019. The increase over 2018 was by only one percentage point, but this year’s data marks the highest percent of chambers receiving funds seen since the 2014 survey.

When taking a look at the data by chamber size, the number of chambers with fewer than 250 members or more than 750 members that reported receiving government funding was down significantly from the previous years. Those that receive government funding with fewer than 250 members was 58%—down 14 points from 2018. The number of chambers receiving funds that have between 751 and 999 members came out to 48%, also 14 points down from last year.

This year’s survey included responses from 210 local chambers across the country and Canada. The majority of chambers (26%) receive funds in the range of $10,000 to $30,000. Sixteen percent of chambers receive $30,001 to $50,000, while 13% bring in $75,001 to $100,000. Only 5% of chambers reported funding of more than $1 million.

According to the survey data, the funding accounts for less than 10% of the budget for 41% of chambers, between 10%‒20% for 29% of chambers, and 20%‒30% for 17% of chambers.

“Overall, either chambers are becoming less dependent on government funds or the agencies are not allocating as much to the local chambers as in previous years,” W.A.C.E. Vice President Russell Lahodny said. “If we look at the responses of chambers that receive up to 30% of their budget from funding, a total of 87% of chambers fall in this range. This was an increase of 8 percentage points from the last survey.”

As for the source of the funds, an overwhelming 85% of chambers receive funds from their city or town, while 17% of chambers receive funds from the county.

Use of Funds

Topping this year’s list of uses for government funding by local chambers is community events, for which 40% of chambers reported utilizing funds. Thirty-nine percent reported using funds for economic development/retention; 36% for city promotion/marketing or a visitor center; 33% for tourism promotion; and 26% for workforce/job training.

“I think the alarming statistic out of this survey is that 27% of chambers use the funds for general operating expenses,” Lahodny said. “The question becomes, if the funding stops, what happens to these chambers? Are they dependent on these funds to keep the doors open? This option increased by six percentage points compared to last year.”

Going at It Alone

W.A.C.E. asked the 38% of chambers that reported not receiving any government funding to select all the reasons which applied to their decision to not receive funds. Forty-three percent claimed they wanted political freedom, while 39% said the chamber wanted to avoid the perception of answering to government officials, and another 39% said they never have asked for or sought funding from a government agency.

The results of the Government Funding survey can be found in the members-only section of the W.A.C.E. website.