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Marketing Grants

Grants to Minnesota Nonprofits and Indian Tribes to Support
Marketing Costs for Programs that Increase Tourism

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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Explore Minnesota

Deadline Date:

10/01/18 Postmarked or Emailed by 11:59 PM


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Grants ranging from $500 to $7,000 to Minnesota nonprofit tourism organizations and Indian tribes to promote local tourism. Funding is available for marketing activities designed to generate sales tax revenue from travel-related industries, increase travel related sales and employment, develop industry partnerships, and expand resident and non-resident tourism.

Grant categories include the following:

Advertising Grants
Consumer advertising, travel trade advertising, meetings and conventions, and sports advertising

- Consumer Advertising: Projects targeted at the individual consumer.

- Travel trade advertising, meetings and conventions, and sports advertising: Projects with primary distribution to tour operators, tour planners and/or travel agents, advertising in meeting and convention media, and targeted sports media.

Eligible expenses for all advertising:
Media costs for broadcast, print, digital, outdoor space, television or radio advertising. Costs for ad creation are eligible as long as an outside professional vendor is used and there is documentation of ad placement. 50% of the project must be distributed out of state.

Eligible expenses for digital marketing:
- Search engine marketing (SEM), pay per click (PPC), or internet keyword buys
- Search engine optimization (SEO) is eligible if performed by an outside vendor
- Display banner ads and advertorial content are eligible
- Social media should include the #OnlyinMN hashtag and/or tag the appropriate @ ExploreMinnesota handle in posts and ads

Ineligible expenses:
Ads and content are not to be placed on political or unsavory websites.

Direct Mail Grants
Direct mail projects to consumers, travel trade or meeting and convention or sports marketing media
The direct mail grant can cover design and distribution of new material used exclusively for direct mail or email marketing. 50% of the project must be distributed out of state.

Target audience: Consumers, tour operators, travel agents, meeting planners, sport planners

Eligible expenses:
- Costs incurred for acquiring, sorting or renting a database
- Design & creation costs as long as an outside professional vendor is used
- Production & print costs
- Distribution, shipping and/or postage costs including a central distribution or direct mail vendor

Ineligible expenses:
- Materials used in the direct mail project may be created for other uses; however, reimbursement must be prorated to include only costs associated with the direct mail project
- Internal staff time
- Existing promotional materials

Public Relations Grants
The public relations grant can cover costs incurred in the planning and implementation of an overall tourism-focused public relations plan. Project must be done by an outside vendor. Explore Minnesota must be recognized in all materials and press releases. The grantee’s regional manager must approve the public relations plan in advance.

Eligible expenses:
Hiring a public relations firm to assist with the following duties:
- Identify media trends, consumer interests, target markets/media outlets
- Editorial calendar development and outreach
- Crafting and distribution of approved press releases and wire releases
- Development of long- and short-lead pitches

Measurements required:
- Copy of public relations campaign plan
- Copy of public relations deliverables

Research Grants
The research grant can cover costs incurred in conducting tourism research projects such as market analysis. Project must be done by an outside vendor. Explore Minnesota must be identified as a sponsor on all materials. Projects may be conducted by a single community or a multi-community* group.

*For research grants only, two or more eligible Minnesota organizations partnering together can comprise a multi-community group. One community submits the request and lists each participating community with a breakdown of each organization’s cash match percentage.

Qualifications: Explore Minnesota must approve study focus, methodology and budget in advance. Interested organizations are urged to contact their regional manager early in the planning process.

Eligible expenses:
- Survey collection costs (includes outgoing and reply postage, telephone solicitation and personal interview costs)
- Printing costs (for the research survey instruments and finished studies)
- Data entry costs
- Research analysis/final compilation costs performed by an outside vendor

Special Grants
Special grants are available to statewide organizations that are producing materials and/or conducting marketing projects that promote the entire state. The Special Grant project must have statewide impact and projected outcomes falling within one of the strategic objectives of Explore Minnesota. The organization must submit a proposal that includes stated objectives, responsibilities, funding and evaluation and should discuss the potential project with the appropriate regional manager as a first step.

The maximum total request for special grants is $7,000 per organization. Tourism Marketing Grant Request for Funding forms must be e-mailed or postmarked by October 1, 2018.

Trade Show Grants
U.S. and international travel trade, sport and travel shows, meetings and conventions and sports marketing shows
U.S. and international trade shows held outside of Minnesota where attendees include individual consumers, travel trade representatives such as tour operators, tour planners, travel agents, meeting planners or sports event organizers and trade media.

*Exception: The American Bus Association and IPW Travel Trade Shows for 2020 may be included in this grant cycle.

- All shows must be pre-approved by your Explore Minnesota regional manager
- All shows must be located outside of Minnesota
- Commitments (i.e. trade show registration) may be made prior to contract date, but grantee’s Request for Reimbursement will not be paid if attached vendor invoices are dated prior to the fully executed grant contract.

Eligible expenses:
- Registration fees (for up to two people)
- Rental of booth space
- Utilities, furniture rental, carpet and cleanup costs
- Shipping materials to the show
- Show sponsorship fees for additional visibility and recognition prior to/during/after the show so long as it is not tied to a cooperative effort or other EMT promotion. Grantee must use the Explore Minnesota logo on printed/digital materials as per the marketing grant requirements.

Ineligible expenses:
- Travel expenses (lodging, airfare, mileage, per diem, meals, parking). If lodging is included in the registration fee, the value of the lodging must be deducted from the registration cost
- Display materials
- Mall shows and other events where consumer attendance is coincidental to another activity
- Purchasing alcohol
- Booth sharing with Explore Minnesota

Measurements required:
- List of leads/contacts from show

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 147172

Estimated Size of Grant:

Maximum total request $7,000; minimum total request $500.
A maximum of $7,000 is also available for a multi-community grant and is considered separate from each individual grantee’s maximum funding. Organizations are allowed to participate in only one multi-community grant.

Term of Contract:

The grant period runs from January 1 – December 31, 2019. Grantee must provide the Request for Reimbursement to the regional manager when all projects are completed, but no later than January 31, 2020.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

A private, non-profit Minnesota organization whose primary purpose is to promote its community or area as a tourism destination and/or has the promotion of its community or area as a tourism destination as a major part of its work, e.g.:
- Convention & Visitors Bureaus
- Tourism Bureaus
- Visitors Bureaus
- Chambers of Commerce
- Civic and Commerce Associations
- Other similar organizations dedicated specifically to the marketing of tourism

Other eligible organizations include:
- A non-profit statewide Minnesota organization representing one or more segments of the tourism industry.
- A scenic byway organization that is a non-profit Minnesota organization that includes as part of its work plan the promotion of the scenic byway corridor as a tourism destination.
- Native American tribes are eligible for projects focusing on Native American cultural heritage tourism.

Border communities: Incorporated convention and visitor bureaus/chambers with a Minnesota Tax ID that represent an area in Minnesota and another state are eligible to apply when they meet requirements. Explore Minnesota grant funds may only be used to promote Minnesota and its travel products.

If more than one eligible organization applies for the same community or area, requestors must work out which organization will be eligible for funding. There can be only one eligible organization for any community or area.

Multi-community grants include three or more eligible organizations:
- One eligible organization submits the application on behalf of the other organizations, listing the other organizations and the matching grant contribution from each organization.
- Participating organizations must contribute to the match in an equitable manner. No one party to a multi-community grant may contribute more than 50% of the matching grant contribution.
- The applicant organization is responsible for executing the grant contract.
- The match requirement ratio for the entire grant will be based on the budget of the organization with the largest total budget.

Neither individual companies, for profit or otherwise, nor local units of government are eligible.

The following expenses are not eligible for Explore Minnesota Marketing Grant funding:
- Purchase of alcoholic beverages.
- Printing of community brochures and/or response pieces.
- Website development or design.
- Literature distribution.
- Fulfillment and distribution of existing materials.
- Explore Minnesota Co-Opportunities programs.
- Advertising in any Explore Minnesota publications.
- Advertising on
- Internal staff costs.
- Advertising in materials that are used by the grantee’s community for consumer inquiry response or ad fulfillment.
- Advertising in grantee’s own community or area in publications or other media, including websites, newspapers, TV, radio, etc.
- Advertising in materials that are used by grantees for consumer inquiry response or ad fulfillment.
- Travel expenses

Pre-Application Information:

2019 Marketing Grant Request for Funding forms must be emailed to your regional manager or postmarked by October 1, 2018.

The maximum number of grants under this program awarded to any eligible organization is two. If an organization is party to two grants, one must be a multi-community grant.

All projects are required to match state funds awarded under the grant program with their own funds, using the formula found in the attached guidelines PDF.

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Central & Northwest Regions:

Nicole Lalum (Fishing Opener)
322 Laurel Street, Suite 32
Brainerd, MN 56401
218.316.3330, 1.888.629.6466
cell: 218.232.0883

Dawn Bushman (Administrative Assistant)

David Bergman (Tourism Marketing Awards & Deer Opener)
1311 North Duluth
Thief River Falls, MN 56701
218.681.0997, 1.888.563.7777

Metro Region:

Lori Grosslein-Peterson (Tourism Conference)
121 7th Pl E Ste 100
St Paul, MN 55101
651. 757.1876, 1.800.657.3637

Northeast Region:

Tim Campbell (MN State Travel Guide & Website Sales)
11 E Superior St, Ste 550
Duluth, MN 55802
218.302.6378, 1.888.876.6784

Southern Region:

Lisa Havelka
PO Box 454
Medford, MN 56002-0286
507.389.2683, 1.888.975.6766

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Minnesota