Festival Grants: Everything you need to get started

Author: ZAPP Team
Date: November 26, 2018
An image of money growing with a plant growing with it

Thinking of applying for a grant to offset festival expenses? When looking for resources to share with other administrators considering applying for grants to help with festival costs, it occurred to us a wealth of knowledge exists right within the ZAPP community! 

LeMoyne’s Chain of Parks Art Festival in Tallahassee, FL has risen in the ranks among festivals to watch! We turned to Vanessa Rowse, their festival manager, for insight on her experience with their 2018 grants processes. Rowse divulged a series of useful tips for other administrators hoping to secure grants, such as which parts of the process require the most attention and what you need to know about post-festival grant reporting.




It’s no secret that there are a variety of organizations, trusts, and agencies that have money to give, but how does one go about finding them? While grants can be found in multiple ways, Rowse has found success with:


  • Checking on what grants their festival applied to in previous years
    This one’s a no brainer for someone new stepping in. Don’t just check last year’s reports— inquire about the years prior as well! It’s possible you’ll see an awarded grant that was skipped for one reason or another and may be good to look into again.


  • Working with the state and local tourism departments
    If someone is providing you with a grant, the money serves a purpose greater than simply helping you pay for your show. Think bigger picture: the festival increases the number of visitors to your state, therefore stimulating the local economy. Your state tourism department might have money to give to help you achieve this collective goal!


  • Working with local government and community organizations
    Many cities and counties offer grants and/or non-monetary assistance for events that enhance the community and attract visitors. Through the City of Tallahassee’s co-sponsorship program, Chain of Parks Art Festival receives donated services and equipment such as police, stage and stage management, electrical, trash and recycling, and more. Some areas offer event funding and grants through Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs), which are set up to encourage public and private investments to improve economic growth and quality of life in specific areas. Your festival may meet their criteria for supporting culture, arts, and community growth!


  • Businesses and Corporations with funds allocated to community giving
    Some businesses build in a percentage of their budget for community spending and have grants to offer for events and possibly your festival.




  • When to apply for grants.
    One of the first questions that comes up is when is the right time to start applying for grants? The answer is…there is no right answer! Rowse says that the most grants in her area are available in the summer, but this is not true for all grants. Keep an ear out, and you may find that there is a time where most grants are available in your area! Grant opportunities get announced all throughout the year so a timeline to start applying for them is really dependent on when you start searching for them and what you find.


  • Some grants provide money upfront while others reimburse your show after the festival is over.
    Make sure you know how your grantor provides funds so you can budget appropriately. Plan to keep track of the necessary documentation you need to submit.


  • Remember that funds are granted for use on specific things designated by the grantors.
    Be sure to keep a running list of how much you’ve spent for each designated category you can spend grant money on. For example, if you get awarded a grant for $1,000 to spend on marketing but realize once your festival is over that you only spent $800 specific to marketing costs, then you essentially lose out on free money because you’ll only get reimbursed for what you used.


  • Make sure you and your team have a plan— and are all on the same page— when it comes to tracking invoices and proofs of payment.
    The hard work doesn’t end once your festival is over! You’ll be required to submit a variety of documentation to your grantors, proving to them you’ve used their money as designated. Each grantor requires different post-show documents, and each grant awarded comes with its own package. It’s not possible to list everything here that a grantor might ask for, but to name a few items: invoices, proofs of payment, files showing pertinent logos on your marketing campaigns, catalogues, banners, etc. Set yourself up for success by organizing your materials from the get-go so you’re not scrambling to find all of these things in your post-show bliss.


  • If you’re awarded a certain grant for this year, don’t necessarily count on getting awarded that same grant money next year.
    Everything is variable. Take this into consideration while budgeting. A great example of this would be CRA grant monies. A CRA’s function would be complete once it has established its set of goals for enhancing an area’s community or economy; thus, when that happens, they would no longer provide monetary support, such as grants. Many communities also cut funding for cultural activities when a significant event occurs that requires a shift in resources. For example, Florida recently reallocated funding away from cultural events to pay for extra security in schools after a school shooting.


  • Read Newsletters! It can be daunting to see a long list of emails in your inbox and weeding through them takes time, but being in the know can pay off! Rowse signed up for an organization’s newsletter and was one of the first to know about a special giving opportunity. She otherwise may not have been alerted to that grant money.


As you start to think about grants, we encourage you to take advantage of the resources available. We have listed some great online resources below to get you started:

The Go Smart Logo

GO Smart

GO Smart™ was created by ZAPP’s parent company, WESTAF. It is a grants management system designed by grant administrators for grant administrators, that makes the grants process easy, from intent to apply, creating the application, panel reviews, awards, and final reports.

The Center for Nonprofit Excellence Logo

Center for Nonprofit Excellence

The CNE sources three grant opportunities each week and lists them on this page. They also provide fundraising resources and various philanthropy training programs.

The Grant Watch Logo

Grant Watch

This page lists a series of arts-focused grants and allows you to search through grants based on geographic location.

We wish you the best of luck on your grant search! If you have any tips you wish to share, email us at