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3 Most Common Matching Gifts Questions From Beginners

Guest Post by: Adam Weinger, Double the Donation

Fundraising is incredibly difficult.  The process of acquiring a new donor can be tiresome and extensive, but it is worth it for the funding. If, after the long and arduous process of getting a donation, your development staff could double that donation with 30 minutes or less time spent working, wouldn’t you encourage them to do so?

Well, they can. And they can do it through matching gift programs. 

Matching gift programs are fairly straightforward.  That’s why it is shocking how few nonprofits take advantage of the funds available annually from corporate matching gift programs.

To best explain the matching process, below are answers to the three most common questions asked by matching gift beginners.


Question #1: What are corporate matching gift programs?

Matching gift programs are a tool companies use to support the philanthropic endeavors of employees. 

Companies with gift matching programs will match the donations their employees make to a range of eligible nonprofits. Thousands of companies offer these programs under their corporate giving umbrellas. 

65% of Fortune 500 companies have matching gift programs.  Think of the possibilities!  Unfortunately, the average employee participation rate in the programs is only an abysmal 9%, meaning an estimated $6-$10 billion in matching gift funds is unclaimed yearly.  Those statistics need to change. 

Just like it is relatively easy to gain funds from matching gifts, those same gifts are just as easy to overlook—that’s why only 9% of employees participate. 

How come?

For starters, nonprofits are balancing a lot of donor information from day to day. 

Details like a donor’s company or spouse’s company can slip through the cracks.  There also is very much a general lack of awareness of and knowledge about corporate giving programs among employees at a companies with these programs.  And, if there is program awareness, there are often challenges with clearly communicating the details of the match process.

It is so important to promote matching gifts before, during, and after the donation process. Make the additional steps as simple as possible for your generous donors. 

Question #2: How do the programs work?

Corporate gift matching sounds almost too good to be true. 

A company will have preset guidelines for matching and then when their employees donate to charities, the employer matches the program’s pledged amount. 

Typically a corporation promises to match on a dollar to dollar, or 1:1, ratio.  So if an employee donates $500 dollars to your charity, a company with a 1:1 ratio would also donate $500, doubling that donation. Some matching gift programs will even offer gifts at 2:1 or 3:1 ratios, tripling or quadrupling the donation respectively. 

The restrictions of matching gift donations vary from company to company.  Some have opportunities for all employee types from part-timers to retirees.  Others require that the employee be full time. 

A program will have a maximum match amount and a minimum.  The minimum is usually around $25, whereas the maximum ranges drastically with an average of $1,000-$15,000 annually per employee. 

Sometimes programs will specify that different level employees have different maximums. For example, Gap Corporation allots $1,000 annually for part-time employees and as much as $10,000 annually for Senior Vice Presidents and above. 

Matching gift programs will also fluctuate in regards to eligibility requirements.  Two-thirds or so of year-round matching gift programs consider the following types of 501(c)(3) organizations eligible: 

  • Social service
  • Healthcare
  • Environmental
  • Educational
  • Cultural 

For examples, companies like Microsoft, Home Depot, and Verizon match donations to a wide range of 501(c)(3) organizations.

For the remaining one-third of year-round matching gift programs, they usually match to organizations which fall into one or multiple of the above organization types. For instance, ExxonMobil, which matched over $34.4 million in employee donations last year, focuses its donation matching on arts / cultural and educational organizations but offers a volunteer grant programs where the company provides $500 grants to a much wide range of nonprofits when employees volunteer for 20 hours.

Political organizations and houses of worship without a community-centered service initiative are commonly excluded from matching gift programs.

Keeping the key components of gift matching in mind, let’s move on to the practical “how-to” of securing a matching gift donation. 

Question #3: How is the process structured?

The process is simple on both the side of the donor and the nonprofit.  As long as a donor knows his company matches gifts, the steps to complete the paperwork or electronic form submission are pretty standard.

On the donor’s side of things, the process would go as follows: 

1. Make a donation to a nonprofit

2. See if the employer or the employer of your spouse has matching gift programs

3. Find the correct paperwork or the URL to submit a matching gift from the company and submit any necessary items

For nonprofits, there are three steps as well:

1. Let donors know about matching gifts

2. Receive a matching gift form that a donor has filed with his company

3. Confirm the employee did donate and submit the form to the company

There will be a little variation from company to company, but that’s roughly it.  Three steps on each side.

One thing to keep in mind is that companies will put time limits on how long after a donation an employee can request a matching gift.  Expiration dates can be anything from a set number of months since the donation date (3, 6, 9, 12) to the end of the calendar year to the end of January, February, or March of the year following when the donation occurred. 

These are typically generous deadlines although it is important to keep two things in mind:

1. You want to have donors apply for matching gifts as soon as possible after a donation. They will be much less likely to follow-through with the process the more time goes by. So, even a matching period expiration as short as 3 months really should be plenty of time.

2. Being aware of common program deadlines can actually help your nonprofit make a big fundraising push. Do lots of your donors’ companies have year-end deadlines?  Let them know! Really emphasize matching gifts and the common deadline in your fundraising materials at year’s end.

Benefiting from matching gifts is all about knowing the system, being aware of the programs out there, and seizing ample opportunities when they present themselves. 

Now that you’ve got the basics down, it is time to go out and learn about the leading matching gift companies and how you can market these programs to your donors.

Topics: Supporter Management