Chambers Taking a More Cautious Approach; Fewer Raising Membership Dues in 2020

According to a W.A.C.E. Opinion Poll earlier this year, only 49% of chambers reported they would be increasing dues in 2020—down about 3 percentage points from last year. Additionally, only 8% of chambers were undecided if they would increase dues this year, compared to 11% last year.

Looking at data based on the number of members a chamber has, the percentage of chambers that reported they were raising dues in 2020 was down in chambers of all sizes, except for chambers with between 251 and 500 members—and those were only 1 percentage point higher than last year. Chambers with more than 1,000 members had the biggest drop: from 80% last year to 69% in 2020. Saying they would be raising dues this year were 29% of chambers with fewer than 250 members and 57% of chambers with 501 to 999 members—each down 3 percentage points from last year.

When looking at data across different states, chambers from California reporting an increase in dues rose to 46%, up 2 percentage points from last year. California was the only state that saw an increase in the percentage of chambers planning to increase dues but was still tied for the lowest percent with Colorado. At 80%, Arizona had the highest percentage of chambers raising dues, but this was down by 3 percentage points from last year. Although the state of Nevada had only seven responses, not one chamber was planning to increase its dues.

The data also shows that, of the chambers that have increased or plan to increase dues in 2020, 49% increased their membership dues in 2019 as well. Overall, only 46% of chambers surveyed increased their dues last year—although it should be noted that 19% of these chambers also reported having a written policy to increase their dues every year by a certain percentage.

Amount of Dues Increase

A 3% dues increase has once again been reported as the most common percent increase among the chambers surveyed; 36% percent will be raising dues by 3% in 2020. The second most common percent increase in membership dues was “10% or more,” with 16% of chambers saying that they would be increasing by that much. To put this in context, 22% of those same chambers reported raising dues in 2019.

Strength of the Local Economy

When asked to compare the local economy this year to last year, chambers are still overwhelmingly suggesting that their local economy is strong, although there is a more cautious outlook compared to 2019. Nine percent said their local economy was “significantly stronger” than at the same time in 2019. This was up 1 percentage point from last year’s survey. However, 42% reported the economy as “somewhat stronger” in this year’s survey, while 59% of chambers last year touted a “somewhat stronger” economy.

The data shows that more chambers have reported “little or no change” in the local economy compared to last year’s survey results. Among participating chambers, 39% selected “little or no change”—a 14 percentage point increase from last year’s survey. In addition, 7% reported the local economy as “somewhat weaker” (same as last year), and 2% reported it as “significantly weaker”—up 1 percentage point from last year.