With the start of each year comes the opportunity
to begin anew — to write a new chapter
of our lives. New Year’s resolutions are made,
fresh blank calendars are put into service,
and a renewed sense of optimism permeates
as we return to our everyday schedules after the holidays.
For the tourism industry, January is a month typically set aside
for planning the upcoming season. In downtown Hannibal, there
are festivals to organize, shows to produce, art to create and products
to order to prepare for the return of visitors. For non-profit
organizations such as the Hannibal Arts Council, Mark Twain
Boyhood Home and Museum, Hannibal History Museum, Bluff City
Theater and others, there also are budgets to be prepared. And, to
fund those budgets, fundraisers and events must be planned.
Although there are many reasons for people to visit Hannibal,
there is no question that one of the primary attractions is its connection
to Mark Twain and the classic novels he penned about
his childhood years here. As is evidenced by the work to preserve
Grant’s Drug Store, a significant site in Twain’s childhood that dates
to the early 1840s, the buildings that are under the care of the Mark
Twain Home Foundation could be in peril if adequate funding is
not secured to maintain them. Fundraising from various sourcesincluding federal agencies, local donations and private foundation
grants is crucial.
With the potential for state and federal funding always uncertain,
nonprofit groups face challenges to provide services and
benefits. The American Alliance of Museums, a national organization
founded in 1906 and comprised of more than 30,000 museum
professionals, says one current proposal for tax reform could mean
a reduction in charitable giving by $17 billion per year, making it
more difficult for nonprofits to raise money.
Nonprofit agencies outside of the tourism industry also could
feel the pinch. The United Way, the world’s largest privately funded
nonprofit, relies on private donations for 59 percent of its annual
budget. Similarly, the Salvation Army reports 62 percent of its annual
revenue comes from direct public support.
Also facing a potentially uncertain future? Federal agencies
such as the National Endowment for the Arts, founded in 1965 by
President Lyndon B. Johnson; the National Endowment for the
Humanities, also formed in 1965; and the Institute of Museum and
Library Services, which includes the Library Programs Office of
the Department of Education that began in 1956 under President
Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“The Missouri Arts Council receives $1 million each year from
the National Endowment for the Arts,” said Michael Gaines, executive
director of the Hannibal Arts Council. “MAC then awards
grants to communities throughout Missouri, including Hannibal.”
The Hannibal Arts Council is the highest ranked community arts
program in Missouri, according to MAC.
Henry Sweets, executive director of the Mark Twain Museum,
“The Mark Twain Museum received grants from both the Missouri
Humanities Council and the Missouri Arts Council that are
crucial for presentation of our programs,” Sweets said
Currently, tourism accounts for about 15 percent of Hannibal’s
GDP. Tourism’s indirect influence on the local economy is more
difficult to measure. The impact of a reduction in tourism dollars
could have implications for Hannibal. Loss of revenue from hotels,
restaurants, fast-food eateries, gas stations and other businesses
would translate into a reduction in sales taxes collected. The spending
of travelers on U.S. 61 raises tax revenues that fund schools,
police departments, fire departments and other municipal services.
While many Hannibalians have no direct connection to tourism,
it nonetheless has an important role to play in the lives of
all residents, and all of Hannibal’s nonprofit organizations will
continue to need support. Whether you volunteer to participate
in an event, make a donation to an organization, or buy a ticket to
attend a show or visit an attraction, your contributions will ensure
that Hannibal’s important cultural and service organizations will be
financially sustained for the benefit of all.
- By LISA MARKS