Entities in Montana that are eligible to apply for a Tourism Grant include:
- A primary, registered non-profit 501(c) organization
- A Tribal government
- A City or County government
Eligible entities cannot use funds as a pass-through for ineligible entities, which include for-profit businesses, individuals, subsidiaries of a non-profit, sponsored entities that do not have a tax-exempt status, and other State or Federal agencies. Eligible entities must be in good standing with the IRS and the entity or organization information must match the filed Tax I.D. or, for a 501(c), the most recently filed Form 990-N. Eligible entities are limited to one application for one proposed project per funding cycle.
The asset/proposed project must be owned by the entity applying for the grant or the applicant must have a long-term lease with automatic renewal in place with the owner [such as for placing or constructing an asset on leased land or a project that is within a facility that is rented]. If a non-profit is considering submitting an application where the asset or land where asset is constructed is owned or co-owned by a City or County or Tribal government, it is recommended that the City or County or Tribe be a co-applicant.
Funds are awarded to tourism and recreation projects that fall within the categories of:
- Arts / Culture / Heritage Preservation: projects that preserve, protect, or restore Montana’s arts, culture, and/or heritage treasures.
- Visitor Facility Upgrades / Construction: projects that will enhance the non-resident visitor experience and increase expenditures.
- Niche Product Development: projects of interest to non-resident visitors as identified in Montana Destination Brand Research Study.
Qualified applicants must demonstrate a cash match of actual and committed money invested in the proposed project. The cash match is $1 applicant to $2 award. For example: if the project costs $9000 to complete, an applicant requesting $6,000 grant award must demonstrate they have $3,000 committed to the completion of the project as match. In-kind services, in-kind labor, and/or volunteer hours cannot count as applicant match.
Tourism Grant funds can only be requested for actual project and activity related costs. Examples of ineligible project costs include but are not limited to: workshops and training; market research or feasibility studies; staff costs including wages, travel, per diem; administrative, overhead, or indirect costs; office supplies; promotional items; subscriptions or membership costs; domain registration and website hosting; social media posts or press releases; routine operation and maintenance costs.
The Tourism Grant Program is not intended to be a sustainable source of funds. A key component of a successful application to the Tourism Grant Program is for the applicant to demonstrate the proposed project has the support of community and tourism partners. These partnerships build sustainability and assist with destination marketing upon successful completion of the project. The amount and frequency of previous grants to an eligible entity will be taken into consideration and may affect the success and/or amount of subsequent potential awards.
Applications are accepted via an online platform beginning July 1st of each fiscal year. The application window closes at 5 pm MST on September 30th of each fiscal year. The typical timeline looks like:
Applications are evaluated by a review team comprised of three staff in the Industry Services & Outreach Bureau, a staff member with the Office of Indian Country Economic Development, a staff member with the Community Development Division, and at least one board member of the Tourism Advisory Council. Applications are reviewed by how well the applicant would market the proposed project upon completion to measure the impact to non-resident visitors; proposed projects that are identified by the community as key tourism development projects in a community, strategic, or tourism/recreational plan; and proposed projects that are supported by tourism and community partners. Other factors that may affect the success of an application or the amount of a potential award is the frequency of previous grants to an organization/entity or the amount of previous grants to a community. A high-level of concentration is also given to rural communities, under-served regions of Montana, and to tribal communities.