How to Fund Your Mobile Tour Guide App

There are so many reasons to build a tour guide app. Mobile tours offer enriching content on visitors’ own devices, make it easy for you to share important information, and modernize the visitor experience. 

Fortunately, building a tour guide app isn’t as expensive as it used to be. You don’t have to hire software developers to create an app from scratch. Instead, you can use a tour app builder like STQRY, which is as easy to use and doesn’t require custom coding. The no-code revolution has touched nearly every aspect of technology, and with STQRY, you can even set up directionally triggered content with Bluetooth and geotags. 

Although using a platform like STQRY is 70-90% cheaper than hiring software developers, there is of course still a cost. 

As a museum, library, or historical site, you might not need to fund your tour guide app from your internal budget. 

You can get it funded with one of these sources:

Grants for museums, parks, libraries, and other organizations

When applying for a grant, you’ll want to tie your app to a relevant initiative. If the grant is specifically for digitization, it’ll be easy to show how your tour app meets requirements. But you can also connect a mobile tour guide app to grants that are related to your site and its content, not technology necessarily. What’s more, a mobile app improves accessibility and makes it easier to provide multi-language content. You might be able to find a grant aimed at offering enriching content to more groups of people.

Here are some resources and organizations to explore:

  • The Knight Foundation - This foundation has multiple grants across journalism, local communities, and the arts. In 2020, the foundation paid out $123 million in grants
  • Henry Luce Foundation - With 8 grantmaking programs, the Henry Luce Foundation has paid out over $1 billion in grants in the past 80 years. One of it’s programs is American Art, which supports museums, universities, and arts organizations in advancing American and Native American visual arts. 
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services - IMLS is accepting applications for multiple grant programs unrelated to Covid, including the Digital Humanities Advancement Grant
  • Gallery Systems 2021 Museum Grants and Funding Guide - Each year GallerySystems, a collections management software, publishes a guide of grants and funding sources for museums around the world. The guide is organized into geographical regions. 
  • California Grants Portal (or similar) - This newly launched portal by the California State Library connects non-profit organizations of all sorts to all available types of funding. Many states and countries have similar resources. 
  • City Parks Alliance - Public parks can access various forms of federal funding to improve their facilities or better educate visitors. 
  • National Recreation and Park Association - This association offers grant opportunities for all sorts of organizations, from libraries to community restoration initiatives to public parks. 
  • Covid-related grants 

Building a tour guide app aligns with Covid-related grants because the app can allow visitors to safely explore your site—no need for sanitizing audio devices or crowding together in tour groups. 

Covid-related acts passed by Congress and the White House included funding for museums and libraries. In March of 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allocated $200 million in pandemic response funding to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal support for libraries and museums across the country. The organization offers grantmaking and policy development. Then in late August of 2021, an additional $2.9 million was given to IMLS. 

The IMLS has been using these funds to keep museums and libraries open and to help them cross the digital divide, and adapt to Covid requirements as well as visitor expectations. Building a mobile tour guide app undoubtedly falls within those initiatives. Of course, the IMLS has always been the largest source of funding for museums, but now it has even more to give. 

The National Endowment for the Humanities received $87.8 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to preserve humanities jobs and programs. 

One private donor, or a select few

A private donor or two can likely fund several years of your mobile tour guide app, especially when you build with STQRY, which is a fraction of the cost of custom software development. You can reach out individually to your best donors and let them know of the goals for the tour guide app. In the app, you can even include a note such as, “This app was made possible by the generous donation of X.”


If you don’t have specific private donors in mind who could fund the app by writing one check, then maybe a special fundraiser is a better approach. Collect contributions from participants for the specific goal of building a tour guide app. This will allow donors to understand the mission and urgency of the fundraiser. Help them imagine the app and get involved. For example, at a cocktail party on-site, you could include a suggestion box for app content, or you could share a prototype of the app for attendees to interact with. You might even record a sample audio track and share it with attendees via email or the event’s landing page on your website.

Corporate sponsors

Is there a corporate sponsor that aligns well with your museum, park, or site? A company can fund your app as a tax-deductible contribution. In exchange, you can include their branding and “sponsored by” text at the bottom of your app, and in the materials you use to promote your app. 

An aligned sponsor should be:

  • One that your visitor audience has a positive perception of. You don’t want to aggravate visitors by prominently displaying a contentious brand. 
  • One that has some form of local presence or influence. For example, a small business or a corporation with a local office would be a better fit than one with no local ties.
  • One with corporate responsibility efforts that coincide with (or at least don’t work against) your organization’s mission. For example, if your organization values conservation, then the corporate sponsor shouldn’t be one of the world’s top polluters.

Create a presentation outlining the importance of the app and its cost, and email contacts from companies that could be the perfect fit. 

Still have questions?

Talk with someone on our team about building your app with STQRY, and we’ll point you in the direction of specific resources that match your needs.