Special Events Sponsorship Program

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The Special Events Sponsorship Program was created in response to the COVID–19 pandemic using federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, and has supported 200 individual activations over the past 2 ½ years in an effort to support local economic recovery. We’re proud to say that as a result of those efforts, the City has seen a record number of local special events over the past two years.

Availability of these funds ends on December 31, 2024 and at this time is currently under discussion as part of the Fiscal Year 2025 budget process. We expect to know more about the future of the program by the end of May and will provide an update as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

To be eligible for this sponsorship program, an event must:
  • be organized by a not-for-profit or nonprofit entity (not be organizations that exist for the purpose of providing funding to or managing other groups or entities; not be a government or tax funded organization)
  • occur between the dates listed in the application cycle
  • be free and open to the public
  • not be political in nature
  • align with the City’s mission and values
  • must be in good standing with the City of Grand Rapids (this includes organizers and fiduciaries)
  • must occur within the City of Grand Rapids limits (must be permitted by the Office of Special Events if on public property


For full details, please refer to the Special Events Sponsorship Program Policy linked to the right.

We want to help defray the costs of community level events that are open and free to the public. Our sponsorship funds only cover certain expenses. Review the list below to make sure your request meets allowable uses.

Eligible Use of Sponsorship Funds

  • Special event expenses like children’s activities, educational workshops, advertising, printing, local entertainment, and more
  • Liability insurance fees (Liquor Liability Insurance is not eligible) 
  • City fees related to barricade placement, police services, trash receptacles, permit fees, or facility rental

For full details, please refer to the Special Events Sponsorship Program Policy linked to the right.

We offer two application cycles, the first is in May and the other in November. Make sure to mark your calendars and apply by the deadline. We don't accept late applications.


Cycle 1

Eligible events occur between July 1 - December 31 of the current year.
  • Application Period: May 1 – May 31
  • Application Deadline: May 31 at 5:00 p.m.
  • Award Notification: June 30
  • Check Issued: Up to 90 days after signed contract and invoice are submitted.


Cycle 2

Eligible events occur between January 1 - June 30 of the upcoming year.
  • Application Period: November 1 – November 30
  • Application Deadline: November 30 at 5:00 p.m.
  • Award Notification: December 31
  • Check Issued: Up to 90 days after signed contract and invoice are submitted.


For full details, please refer to the Special Events Sponsorship Program(PDF, 268KB)

Application Process

We know you're excited about this program, we are excited too!

  1. Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements listed above.
  2. Use the Aligning Events with Strategic Priorities Worksheet(DOCX, 56KB) to assist with the Special Event Sponsorship Application.
  3. Complete the Special Event Sponsorship Application when the application cycle opens. No submissions will be accepted once the application period closes. Applications must be submitted through the online portal. The Office of Special Events will not accept applications sent via email or mail.
  4. An evaluation committee will review your application based on alignment with the City’s vision, mission, values, and strategic priorities.
  5. We'll communicate with all applicants regarding the status of their award 30 days after the application window closes.
  6. The award recipients must sign the provided contract, provide insurance, and send an invoice within 14 days of receipt. Funds will be awarded up to 90 days after the signed contract and invoice are submitted.
  7. Recipients must submit reconciliation requirements (summary report, invoice, etc.) no later than 30 days after the event.

Evaluation Criteria: Aligning With the City's Strategic Plan

We evaluate applications on how the event or activation aligns with the City’s Strategic Plan and core mission. We look for events that enhance Grand Rapids’ neighborhoods in the following ways:

  • Support equitable economic impact through engaging BIPOC and diverse vendors
  • Provide cultural and educational enrichment
  • Celebrate our unique diversity, history, and heritage
  • Promote and embrace mobility and sustainable modes of transportation
  • Create ownership and a sense of belonging
  • Enhance pride and a sense of community
  • Promote a positive image of the City
Wondering how to connect your special event with the City's Strategic Plan? We've created a helpful list of questions for each strategic priority. These will help you brainstorm and create a narrative for the sponsorship application. By doing this, you'll help us identify how your event aligns with the strategic priorities. Download the Aligning Events with Strategic Priorities Worksheet linked in step 2 above.


For full details, please refer to the Special Events Sponsorship Program document linked in the 'Resources' section (located to the upper-right side of this page).