Applications open for startup festival support (including $10K!)

Julie Fooshee - Friday, July 26th, 2019


Anyone can start a new science festival at any time, and the Science Festival Alliance is usually willing to help.

But with the Science Festival Accelerator program now offering $10,000 in matching funds, systematic mentoring, and additional professional development funds, now is the best time to get your plans into gear.

Thanks to the generous support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Accelerator is currently seeking applications for 12 openings for new science festival initiatives.

The Accelerator program has been active over the past year with four lead festivals (Mississippi Science Festival, Flagstaff Festival of Science, Wisconsin Science Festival, and Sitka WhaleFest) taking on the challenge of professional development in the areas of diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI). Now that their plans are in place, it is time for them to pass on what they’ve learned as Accelerator mentors.

The Accelerator’s new openings are new science festival initiatives planned for communities with a relatively small resource base, and looking to begin with DEAI at the heart of their initiative. Instead of trying to integrate DEAI into a science celebration later, the Accelerator is explicitly supporting new initiatives that seek to make a difference by putting their community first. To learn more about what that means, check out the Diversity First Toolkit.

In order to apply you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be looking to start a new initiative that puts community first, and centers DEAI in its development, while also focusing on science, technology, engineering, and/or math. The initiative may be led by a single organization, but it must be collaborative in nature, with mechanisms for programming involvement by others.
  • Your plans should be for an ongoing festival initiative, but your first festival celebration must take place between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
  • You must be committed to taking part in professional development as led by your mentor festival and the Science Festival Alliance. The project involves intensive professional development during the first half of 2020, including video conferences, phone calls, and the Science Events Summit.
  • Your planned festival must be a new or significantly expanded initiative, and reach a meaningfully critical mass of attendees as appropriate to the community served. Your attendance goals may shift in the course of planning, but must not be lower than 2,000.
  • Your planned festival must be intended to serve a community with a relatively small resource base, such that a first-year budget for the festival would not be expected to exceed $60,000. This may include regions with a small population base, or communities with relatively low levels of STEM research activity and few formal and informal education institutions to draw on as resources.
  • Your planned festival initiative must be associated with a non-profit organization in the US or Canada.

To apply please download the following word document, fill out the questions to the best of your ability, and save it as a PDF when complete. Email completed applications to the Science Festival Alliance no later than December 2, 2019 at:

If you have questions during the process you can reach out to us at the same email account!



Some answers to Frequently Asked Questions:

  • When is the deadline for the Accelerator Application?
    • The application for this funding opportunity is October 31, 2019.
  • When will I hear the results?
    • The Science Festival Alliance’s goal is to announce the final12 startup festivals by December 6, 2019.
  • Do I have to show proof of matching funds at the time of the application?
    • No you do not! We understand that your proposed festival is taking place in the future, and you may not have even started fundraising yet.
  • What is the maximum amount of overhead that can be charged on the (up to) $10,000 matching funds?
    • The matching funds provided by this project cannot be subjected to overhead. Your institution may find it best to treat this funding as work-for-hire.
  • When will we receive the $10,000?
    • Once you have gone through the 6 month professional development period in 2020, publicly announced dates for your first festival celebration, provided proof of receipt of matching funds, and completed MIT’s invoicing process.
  • There is a word limit on the questions, what if I feel there’s more vital information about my area to include?
    • You can include extra information but there is no guarantee that the grant readers will read that information and take it into account.
  • Do “in-kind” donations count towards the total of my matching funds?
    • In-Kind donations do not count towards the total of your matching funds. Matching funds must be ‘cash’.
  • When is the last date that I can have a festival event in 2021 in order to qualify for this funding opportunity?
    • You would have to have the festival celebration before the end of June 30, 2021.
  • I can’t apply this year, is there an opportunity next year to apply?
    • Unfortunately this is a one-time offer and will not be available for next year.
  • How many people should I have onboard to organize this kind of event?
    • There is no set number of people that determine the success of an event like this, but successful proposals will reference both a competent team and indicate the likelihood of broad community support.
  • Is there a link to documents online that I can download that would help me get a festival initiative started?


Once more, the application is available for download here!