Finding Local Support

In these days of budget shortfalls and downsizing, finding funds to keep cultural heritage institutions afloat is a tremendous statewide (and field-wide!) challenge. All organizations must strive to demonstrate the value they add to communities, by quantifying the numbers of people they serve and by gathering more qualitative information. Such gauges of institutional efficacy are important for potential funders.

Richard Burkert, President and CEO of the Johnstown (PA) Area Heritage Association recently reported on his institution’s Recession experience. “After two years of exploring ways of augmenting the revenue side of our operation, we have returned to the notion that we will survive only if we can find adequate community support. Our projects have been competitive for support from regional and even national foundations, but local support has not been cultivated in a systematic manner.” His conclusions, despite a fairly successful capital campaign and dramatic increases in visitation, are sobering.

cash register from the Royster candy store in Raleigh, NC Museum of History collection 1989.200.1

How can North Carolina’s museums and historic sites seek and find local support? One way may be to convince county government officials to contribute a percentage of tourist occupancy tax revenues to cultural institutions. This strategy has been successful in DesMoines, Iowa, where an area consortium funds a local cultural grants program through occupancy tax revenues.

In order to initiate a similar program: 1.build a local or regional network—something C2C has encouraged for disaster preparedness and supplies-sharing purposes. Several of these are growing successfully in the mountain region, Charlotte, the Triangle, NE and SE NC. Some focus on mutual professional assistance, while others exist to promote regional tourism. 2. Work on tracking the numbers of non-local visitors to your site and other institutions within your local heritage network. 3. approach local governing bodies with requests for a perpetual line of funding, backed up by evidence of your institution(s) community value.

Tourism dollars usually benefit hotels and restaurants most directly. Tourism-related tax revenues ought to support the services (roads, sewage systems, etc.) that facilitate those activities. Cultural institutions can and should attract tourists, even as they nurture their own communities. The quantitative and qualitative information you gather may help convince local officials that it is in the community’s best interest to help sustain your organization.

Do occupancy tax revenues help fund your organization? Has your regional cultural heritage network investigated this possibility?

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About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on February 10, 2012, in Connecting to Collections, museum governance and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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