Arts & Entertainment, Economic Development, and Travel & Tourism

Downtown Development Authority changes grant process for events

April 14, 2015
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Hispanic Festival celebrates heritage downtown
The Hispanic Festival in downtown Grand Rapids is produced by the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan. Photo via

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority is making changes to how it evaluates events after a request from one of its alliances to standardize its grant program for events.

Event rating system

Kris Larson, president and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., or DGRI, which is the management entity of the authority, said events would now be evaluated against one another and weighted based on community priorities, which were determined through a public survey conducted last year.

An event application can earn up to 200 possible points under the new criteria.

The point system will allow DGRI staff to determine how each event application ranks in comparison to all of the others, so it can better determine which events to recommend to the Alliance for Vibrancy for support, which recommended standardizing the process.

According to the grant application, events will now be graded on the following criteria: attracts broad audiences (up to 85 points available), optimizes the use of the downtown (up to 45 points available), grows and spotlights the Grand Rapids community and adds vibrancy to downtown (up to 70 points available).

DGRI will be looking for events that “add energy, vibrancy and cultural enhancements within the downtown.”

DGRI tested the new point system by comparing all the events it incentivized in the past and annual events it is aware of to determine the weights for each category.

Based on the point system, Larson noted that ArtPrize rated highest with 170 points. The next two highest-rated events were Movies in the Park, 160 points, and the Hispanic Festival, 150 points.

Event types and grants

Under the new criteria, grants will be offered for upstart events, which are events expected to draw under 1,000 attendees, and major events, which are expected to draw more than 1,000 attendees.

Upstart grant application fees are set at $50, and reimbursement grants can be made for up to $1,000. Major event grant fees are set at $200, and reimbursement grants can be made for up to $15,000.

Rather than a rolling application timeline, upstart grant applications will now be reviewed twice a year, and major grant applications will be reviewed once a year. The change supports the ability of DGRI to be able to compare event scores in making its recommendations for support to the Alliance for Vibrancy.

If the Alliance for Vibrancy approves a recommendation, it will be presented to the Downtown Development Authority, or DDA, board for final approval.

Next deadlines

The next 2015 deadline for upstart grants is Aug. 1. The 2015 deadline for major grants is May 1. 

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