Special Events Sponsorship Program

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The City of Grand Rapids Office of Special Events (OSE) is committed to generating year-round, high-quality events and activities that welcome all and display our community’s vibrancy and diversity. The mission of the OSE is to reinforce Grand Rapids’ position as a destination city by providing fun, safe, equitable, and inclusive special events, activities, and experiences for all Grand Rapids residents and visitors to enjoy.

Events and activities can bring diverse groups together; they bring us together. Events offer opportunities to share, celebrate, raise funds, promote causes, and to have fun. They create a sense of community by building social, emotional, and physical connections. When events happen, our city is vibrant, tourists visit, and our local economy thrives.


The City of Grand Rapids works with local organizers to generate vibrant, diverse events. One of the ways we accomplish this is by the Special Events Sponsorship Program. This program financially supports events that encourage community unity & pride, and promote equity & mobility. We'll give particular funding consider to events that align with the City's Strategic Plan. Additional information can be found in the sections below. For full program details, download the Special Events Sponsorship Program Policy linked to the right.


The Special Event Sponsorship Program application period for events occurring July - December 2023 is closed. The next application period will open in December for events occurring January - June 2024.

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


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


For full details, please refer to the Special Events Sponsorship Program Policy(PDF, 240KB)

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. The Office of Special Events will not accept applications sent via email.
  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. Funds will be awarded prior to the event as long as the awardee signs and returns the agreement within 30 days of receiving the contract. Failure to return the signed agreement within 30 days may result in loss of any Special Event Sponsorship funds.
  7. Recipients will be required to sign a contract with the City of Grand Rapids that includes a marketing plan and a strategy for capturing demographic information.
  8. Funds will be awarded prior to the event as long as the special event permit requirements have been met.
  9. Recipients will 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 Policy linked to the right.