The Ultimate Guide to Matching Gifts

Adam Weinger
June 19, 2019

Matching gift programs allow nonprofits to double, or even triple, many of the donations that are coming into their organization.  If you are not currently taking advantage of employer matching gift programs - you should be!

Learn more below about how matching gift programs provide additional funds with little to no additional expense and effort.

What are matching gifts? 

 Matching Gifts

Matching gifts are the most popular form of corporate giving.  These matching donations are a way for companies to support the charitable causes that their employees are involved in.

Though the specifics of these programs are defined by each company, the process is always pretty much the same. When an employee donates to a nonprofit and submits documentation to the employer, the company then matches the efforts of the employee by donating to the cause as well.

What's a typical match ratio?

Program guidelines are going to vary company to company but usually participating employers will match gifts at 1:1 ratio, or dollar for dollar.  Some corporations will even match at 2:1 or 3:1 ratio, meaning your nonprofit is walking away with triple or quadruple the initial funds. With the standard 1:1 ratio, a $300 donation becomes a $600 donation.  

What types of donations will companies match?

A majority of employers are fairly flexible when it comes to which organizations they’ll match gifts for. About two-thirds of companies with matching gift programs will match for most 501(c)(3) organizations including:

  • Community based social services like homeless shelters
  • Cultural organizations like libraries
  • Educational institutions like colleges or k-12 schools
  • Environmental organizations like conservation causes
  • Healthcare organizations like hospitals

If a program doesn’t fall into the two-thirds that will match donations to most 501(c)(3) organizations, they will usually honor gifts for one or more of the organization types from the above categories.  

Pretty amazing, right?  

Why aren’t more nonprofits taking advantage of matching gift opportunities?

Raising adequate funds is a constant struggle for organizations of all sizes.  Zeroing in on matching gift programs provides a great opportunity for nonprofits because they are essentially free money. 

There are three main hurdles that nonprofits face when working to seize the potential of matching gifts:

  1. Limited or complete lack of knowledge of corporate giving programs
  2. Incomplete employer information from donors (and their spouses)
  3. Unclear communications about the match process that donors must follow to submit matching gift requests

These are certainly challenges, but not insurmountable ones.  The best thing a nonprofit can do to increase matched gifts is raise awareness of them with the help of your donor management software.

Ensure that your donors know the funds are out there waiting for them and do your best to make it easy for them to submit matching gift requests.

Learn more by reading our rundown of the matching gift basics.

Matching gifts are great for employees and nonprofits, but what about the employers themselves?

Why do companies implement matching gift programs?

There are several reasons that a company offers matching gifts, spanning from altruism to good business. No matter the reason, it is a service to their community.

Companies are looking to make a difference and help in the ways that they can, but that alone is not enough to generate the sheer number of matching gift programs out there. 

A tax exemption is one driving force behind corporate giving programs.  Fortunately for nonprofits, donating to charity is beneficial for business—the incentive is built right in. 

Even more importantly than tax exemptions, with matching gift programs, companies are also garnering good will with employees thereby improving engagement and retention as staff will be grateful for the support in their philanthropic efforts. 

Beyond their employee base, these programs are beneficial for branding and establishing positive reputations.  Whether trying to impress clients, customers, or consumers a strong history of corporate philanthropy to organizations which employees care about will make a difference.

Plus, gift matching is a relatively easy way for companies to be philanthropic.  The employee does all the legwork of finding a cause and all the employer has to do is follow through with its promise.

Which companies will match donations?

The short answer is that many, many companies will match donations.  Based on Double the Donation’s research, 65% of Fortune 500 companies match donations and many small companies have programs as well.  Matching gift programs span industries and geographic locations even beyond the U.S.  

To give you a sense of the variety of businesses involved and the range of guidelines, we've outlined three examples of great programs.  

GeneralElectricLogo-486274-edited.png#1 General Electric (GE)

A discussion of top-tier matching gift programs would be incomplete without mentioning GE.  In 1954, GE created the whole concept of corporate gift matching . Since its inception, GE’s program has raised more than $1 billion for nonprofit organizations.

General Electric matches at the standard 1:1 ratio for gifts ranging from $25 up to $5,000.

JohnsonandJohnsonLogo.png#2 Johnson and Johnson

Johnson and Johnson’s program is very inclusive. Current employee’s donations to eligible charities will be matched at a 2:1 ratio. Retirees are also qualified for a 1:1 ratio. 

For Johnson and Johnson employees, matching gifts are long-term opportunities.

Retiree allocations, like Johnson and Johnson’s, are more common than one might think. Make sure retirees aren’t left off the list for matching gift consideration.

MicrosoftLogo.png#3 Microsoft

Microsoft currently has one of the leading matching gift programs and has donated over $1 billion through its match program. Just last year, the company and its employees donated $163 million.

Microsoft will match dollar for dollar up to $15,000 for donations to most 501(c)(3) organizations.

Curious about more leading matching gift programs? 

Check out Double the Donation's list of The Top 20 Matching Gift Programs.  

Once you know about matching gifts, it is hard to disagree that this is a crucial method of fundraising.

The first step toward increasing matching gift revenue is getting the word out to donors about the opportunity.

How do you promote matching gifts?

If a donor is unfamiliar with these programs, he or she might fear that matching gifts will mean mountains of paperwork and an extensive process. However, the effort is worth it because studies show that promoting matching gifts in fundraising appeals can increase response rates and average donation amounts by over 50%.

Securing a matched gift is actually not very difficult at all.  When you tell supporters about the donation potential, make sure to emphasize that it will only take a few extra minutes.

There are plenty of ways to keep donors in the loop about matching gifts, online and off. Some of these methods include:

  • During the donation process
  • On a dedicated web page
  • On social media
  • In your emails
  • On direct mailers
  • In acknowledgment letters
  • As a post on your blog

Learn more about promoting matching gifts online.

What are some examples of successful matching gift promotion?

Let’s look at some examples.

The ASPCA has a dedicated matching gifts page on its website where donors can discover their match-eligibility:

Matching Gifts ASPCA example

North Star Reach shared a Facebook post about matching gifts:

Matching Gifts North Star Reach Example

The National Kidney Foundation launched an email campaign to call attention to matching gifts with a link to their matching gift page:

Matching Gifts Kidney Walk example

What are the top matching gift tools?

For Salsa Clients

If your organization uses Salsa's fundraising software and you're looking for a matching gift tool, Salsa Engage offers an  easy and effective integration with Double the Donation’s 360MatchPro.

This matching gifts super platform completely automates the process of marketing, encouraging, and collecting matching gifts from your donors’ employers.

Every donation will trigger an automatic email from your organization explaining what matching gifts are and how your donors can further support your organization by submitting their matching gift requests. If your donors shared their employer information during the donation process or used a corporate email address to make their contribution, they will be sent their company-specific matching gift information and a link to their request submission form.

With this thorough automation, your organization can exponentially increase revenue without lifting a finger. There is $4-7 billion in matching gift revenue left on the table each year, and Salsa wants to help you claim it.

With the right strategy and software, your organization can effectively engage with your donors about matching gifts and watch the donations multiply!

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